Browsers & Search Engines and When to Use One or the Other

searchenginetargetThere is a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “search engine” and “browser”. Many people do not know what either term means and mistakenly use the terms interchangeably. Google did a sidewalk interview of people revealing this confusion. This article will explain the difference between the two and explain when you should use a search engine and when you should not.

Web Browser Definition

“A web browser is a software application  for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web” (from Wikipedia). Examples of web browsers include (but are not limited to (in no particular order): Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (aka “IE”), Mozilla’s FireFox, Apple’s Safari, and Google’s Chrome. PDAs and internet-ready smart phones have their own mini-browsers as well.

Search Engine Definition

“A web search engine is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are usually presented in a list of results and are commonly called hits. The information may consist of web pages, images, information and other types of files” (from Wikipedia). Examples of popular search engines include but are not limited to: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Bing,, etc.

Most web browsers now have search engines built into them for fast, easy searches. Because of this, many people mistakenly think their browser is “yahoo”, “google”, etc. Furthermore, people are so used to typing information into the search engine window that they completely ignore the very important Address window (aka Address bar or URL window).

Here are pictures of popular browsers showing both the address window and the search engine window:





Internet Explorer:


Note that in each of these browsers, there is an address window at the top/left and a search window in the top/right.

Chrome is unique in that it doesn’t have separate windows for web addresses or search items:


When to use the Address Window

Notice that the content in the address bar typically begins with http://

This is the unique address of the web page currently being displayed. This is also known as the URL (short for “Uniform Record Locator“). If you know the precise address for a web address, you should enter it into the Address Window. You don’t have to type in the http:// as most web browsers will enter that in for you. You probably don’t even have to type in the www. that often precedes most web domain names. So you may save yourself some time by no longer typing http://www. when entering in an address.

Often we hear of people typing in a web address either into the search window, or into a search engine web page directly. If you know the address, simply type it into the Address Window and save yourself several steps and clicks.

When to use the Search Window

If you do not know the correct web address or if the one you have doesn’t seem to work, use the Search Window. Type in words that would distinguish the website you seek from other sites. If you get too many results or do not see the site you seek quickly, you may try narrowing your search using some search engine shortcuts.

Google search shortcuts
Google and Yahoo search shortcuts compared
Search Engine Math

Additional Notes on Browsers and Search Engines

Most search windows built-into browsers will also let you select which search engine site to use. Try each one out and see which one works best for you. You should be able to make that one the default.

Sometimes when installing new software you will be asked whether it is okay to install a new search engine bar into your browser. Since most browsers already have a search engine window, it makes little sense to add another one as it will take up space on your screen and may adversely affect the speed of your browser.

Here is a website that shows your IP address, your browser, browser version, and operating system FindMeByIp.

If you own a website, it is a good idea to install multiple web browsers. Here is an article explaining why.

If you would like to learn more about how to increase the score and ranking of your web site with search engine, check out this article.

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