What is a Browser?

What is a browser? was the question we asked over 50 passersby of different ages and backgrounds in the Times Square in New York. Watch the many responses people came up with.

44 Comments leave a comment below

  1. i really enjoyed this especially Santa at the end ‘eerrrrrr no’

  2. This blows my mind

  3. That was awesome.

    In a world of validated codes and meticulous design details, it’s humbling to be reminded that (some) people interacting with the technology/design don’t care.

    They just want it to work.
    (…’least that’s what *I* got out of it)

  4. “I use google” I get that all the time… *sigh*

  5. It’s nice of Mr. Predominant to throw Yahoo! an occasional bone.

  6. It’s easy for us in web world to take things like this for granted and something at the core of the whole ‘death of IE6’ debate.

    People don’t know what browser is let alone what version but they all used the web, and seem probably do so just fine without knowing what browser they use.

  7. I hope designers aren’t surprised by this. We really do need to pay attention to how people live. Do you care about the inner workings of your car, or do you care about whether it works or not?

  8. Omg, I can’t actually believe that, that’s unbelievable. How do people not know the difference between a browser and a search engine?? Wow. I’m a bit stunned. I honestly assumed the average internet user knew what their browser was and what it does. Oh dear.

  9. Yep, we shouldn’t be surprised by this. I’m always amazed by the arrogance of some developers who insist on forcing clients to read through swathes of technical documents and baffle them with terms they neither know or care about. They want a website and they want it to work. They don’t care how it’s made, and they don’t care about our lingo.

    We would do well to remember that.

  10. This really isn’t a surprise. After all, when do you actually need to know the generic term, browser?

    I suggest it is only when talking to someone in technology – eg.g the help desk. I can imagine the following:

    User, “I can’t get to CNN.”
    Help Desk: “Please open your browser and…”
    User: “Please open my what and do what?”

    Much better if the help desk were to ask, “What program do you use to get to CNN normally?” Is that technically right… No, but the goal is not to be right, the goal is to have a happy user.

    For those of us that remember real, live travel agents, I am sure you can remember the agent saying something like, “My computer is very slow today.” In reality their computer was just a terminal, but they assumed that it was capable of more.

  11. Wow. I hope he explained what a browser really was after asking these people!

    But yeah, I’m not that surprised. My whole family calls me for tech questions and if I try to walk them through something, I end up having to explain what things like “browsers,” “ftp clients,” “urls,” etc are.

  12. I actually think some people just don’t how to express or articulate it. It’s not like they don’t know.

  13. A browser is a viewer who looks around casually without seeking anything in particular. Don’t know what you kids are on about.

  14. “I drive the red one”

  15. So the question is… how do we get designers, developers to switch their thinking, and realize that the _user_ doesn’t care — or can even tell the difference between a browser and a search engine.

    We tend to assume everyone who uses the web cares about IE 6, or the FireFox market share, or if you should or shouldn’t use Safari. Most of us in the room today are “the friend who come over and delete all the other browsers and say: use this now.”

    We’re dealing with very technical details when developing a website, but much less technical than developing other types of software. Adobe InDesign doesn’t come with a printed manual for PostScript page description language, for instance. Why do we try to insist that our clients know the difference between AJAX/CSS/ASP/WHATEVS, when they just want the website to work.

    How can we build better websites, be better service providers, and get over ourselves during the process?

  16. Very refreshing to be reminded that there are people out there with lives outside the ‘browser’.

  17. question should be what is an internet browser … not just browser

  18. and so what?
    who does really care about?

  19. contrary to a few of the above comments: just because people don’t know what a browser is doesn’t mean they won’t be able to appreciate (even if only innately) the ease of using a well designed website.

    terrible argument to make — those two things are not mutually exclusive. They’re not even in the same realm of consideration.

  20. I don’t know what a carburetor is but I sure as hell know the difference between driving an Audi and a Chevy.

  21. I think the point being made by Google in this experiement is that it will be hard to get internet users to switch or upgrade to a different or more capable browser if they don’t know what one is. Really this is a lesson in branding. When marketing a new browser, different terms will need to be used to express what it is, and therefore how one can be better.
    Not to be confusing but I think the tv commercials for the new search engine Bing are quite clever. Now to see if actually is better at finding what we are all searching for.

  22. if you asked them what a horse was they wouldn’t know either. they’re plain stupid.

  23. This is normal, and personally I don’t think they are any less stupid than someone who doesn’t know what a 2 seam fastball is. I remember I asked someone once if they were on cable/dsl or dial up. And all they said was I’m on Internet Explorer.

  24. 8%… that is really sad.

  25. I can’t believe no one said “A browser is someone who’s just looking.”

  26. oh god!!
    wow! Make me nervous, people are stupid!

  27. I wonder if people were slightly biased if this guy told him he was from Google right off the bat. But still, sounds like some people just didn’t get it. Interesting…

  28. I am sure he mentioned he was from Google. This is like that joke where you ask someone what color something is that’s white, then ask them what cows drink. They always say milk. Slightly loaded question coming directly from Google.

  29. I would say asking American people is not the best way to measure the worlds intelligence on what is a browser and what is a search engine.

    Kind of already knew the answer.

  30. @nick toye: hey, wassup with the American bashing? not really adding to the discussion here with that kind of attitude.

  31. I agree. And keep in mind that about 75% of North Americans are “online.”

  32. I’m not bashing American’s – just saying that New York isn’t the voice of the world, it’s the voice of New York.

  33. Uh, why would this surprise anyone? Most people don’t discuss these things.

  34. Since It does not provide a solution to the problem, what’s the point of the video other than to be condescending?

    Also, would we be as shocked had it started with, “Hi. I’m Scott from the National Zoo and we’re here to find out what is an ungulate?”

  35. That video is funny! 8%! Btw I like even-toed ungulates…

  36. I’m gonna have to jump on the ‘Not a lot of people outside the developing world cares about specifics, they just want it work’ boat.

    I think that this video does not by any means mean that people are stupid, it just means they have other things on their minds that are more important to them. Who’s fault is it really that the general public doesn’t know the difference? Is there really any fault to pass out?

    To be quite honest; to say such a thing, I find, is both ignorant and arrogant…

  37. Nick, Times Square is definitely not the voice of New York… It’s the voice of everyone who doesn’t live in New York, so I think this was the perfect place to conduct the survey.

  38. Livia: Even-toed ungulates are excellent, giraffes in particular.

  39. It’s all in the choice of words. “Browser” sounds like browsing or searching – fair enough. That doesn’t mean that these people are stupid. If asked what “program” they use, the answers would have been far better…

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