Search engines and web browsers are not the same: Here’s the difference


We’ve recently seen many comments on social media where users are confusing search engines and web browsers. We thought it might be a good opportunity to help educate users about the actual differences between search engines and web browsers.

I’ve seen many comments referencing DuckDuckGo where the topic at hand was about switching web browsers. Search engines like DuckDuckGo are certainly alternatives to search engines like Google and Bing, but they are not web browsers.

For example, Google has a web browser and a search engine, Chrome and Google Search. Just because you’re using DuckDuckGo on Chrome doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated Google from the equation. If your goal is to remove Google from your search and web history, then you’ll have to use DuckDuckGo on a different web browser, like Brave or Firefox.

Here are the key differences

Search Engines

Search engines and web browsers are not the same: Here's the difference
Let me just “Google” that.

There are many search engines available, including Google, DuckDuckGo, StartPage, Bing, and more. Search engines are compromised of three different functions:

  • The search algorithm: The algorithm is the code under the search engine that indexes websites and webpages and matches them to the keywords you input into the search engine. If you input “how to cook lasagna,” the search engine will look through the index to find those keywords and hopefully give you results that match.
  • The crawler: Crawlers are bots (think of a colony of ants) that scour websites on the internet and bring back their data to add to the index. Websites, like ours, use keywords to attract the crawlers to be added to the index for you to find us.
  • The index: As we already have seen, the index is the library that the crawler and algorithm are compiling. The index is made up of URLs that are served to you in a visual form. When you searched for “how to cook lasagna,” your results will show the headlines from webpages that should be relevant to how to cook lasagna.
Search engines and web browsers are not the same: Here's the difference
Search all the things!

Web Browsers

Web browsers are software applications that you install on your computer to retrieve information from web sites or web servers. Some of the earliest web browsers included Netscape and Internet Explorer. These have given way to the likes of Chrome, Edge (based on Chromium), and Firefox.

Without web browsers, search engines would not work. You need something like Chrome, Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi, or Edge in order to use a search engine to find web pages. The four attributes of a web browser are:

  1. Browsers use a graphical interface with which you interact with. Without the GUI, you would not be able to see web pages.
  2. Browsers interpret webpages HTML code and formatting to present you with a static or dynamic result. Websites are made up of HTML and JavaScript, which browsers then turn into visual components.
  3. Browsers communicate with internet service providers using TCP/IP and HTTP/HTTPS protocols.
  4. Browsers use an address/search bar where you can directly access a web page if you know the URL or search for it if you don’t.

This was a brief explanation of the differences between a web browser and a search engine. Hopefully, this was helpful for those of you who have been confused by the subject. The best way to think of this is, you can’t use a search engine without a web browser. Here’s another good resource on the subject.

And if you think switching from Google Search to DuckDuckGo while still using Chrome is keeping Google’s eye away from you, it’s not. You’ll need to switch away from Chrome to maximize your distance from Google. Check out our Google Chrome alternatives here. And let us know what you think on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network.

Last Updated on June 26, 2021.


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