Web browser vs search engine: What’s the difference?

Browsers and search engines have been a part of internet for as almost as long as it’s existed. They allow us to browse the web and find our favourite websites to either do important research or waste hours and hours going down a YouTube rabbit hole.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless and the browser and the search engine enable for these limitless possibilities. In fact, there’s a good chance the vast majority of the population may not even use the internet in their daily lives without these.

Although you may think that a graphical web browser and search engines are similar, they’re actually quite different.

What’s the difference between a search engine & web browser?

The key difference between a browser and a search engine in that you use a Web Browser to access the internet – and through a browser, you use a search engine to aggregate the information from all of the different websites online.

Search engines index billions of suitable web pages, and they display those web pages in their search results. For example, you may use Google to search for “what is a search engine?”, and Google’s algorithm will go through the internet to find which web page is best and serve that to you in order.

Whereas a browser is simply the program that allows you access to any web page in the first place. This includes search engines, which at their simplest for, are a web page on the internet.

But it’s a little more complex than that. Here I’d like to talk about the primary differences, the browser is going to be your tool for accessing the internet. Examples of browsers would be Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Brave browser.

A search engine however is technically a web page we open inside a browser and use to search the internet for other web pages. These are Google, Bing and Yahoo – even though everyone pretty much uses Google these days.

What is a browser?

The exact definition of a browser is;

a computer program with a graphical user interface for displaying and navigating between web pages.

Essentially it is the program that allows us to access the internet and browse to a variety of different web pages.

It can also be used to connect and configure your router for example as your router is on your network and therefore connected to you by the internet.

Browsers in recent times have become even better at helping us to navigate the web – with bookmarks to let us save out favourite websites, store cookies to save our preferences on different websites and even things like extensions letting us block those annoying adverts.

There are multiple web browsers to choose from, and within those browsers it is pretty easy for you to open even more tabs and have more web pages on your display.

They’re essentially part of the experience of finding information online – however, you also likely need a search engine if you really want to find what you’re looking for on the net.

What is a search engine?

The exact definition of a search engine is;

a program that searches for and identifies items in a database that correspond to keywords or characters specified by the user, used especially for finding particular sites on the world wide web.

Essentially, it’s a website for finding other websites. You enter a keyword or question, and the search engine will find the most relative websites for your query.

The engine then has its own search algorithm, designed by computer scientists, that will find you the most relevant results from their search index.

Search engines are doing way more than even before in recent years – if we look at Google alone, they not only have a search engine but a browser too, as well as a whole host of other companies that integrate and rely on their search engine.

Google is the most advanced search engine, and nowadays they will even pull information from websites so you don’t even have to go to the websites themselves to gather the information.

You enter your desired keywords – like “what is the difference between a browser and a search engine” – and you’ll come to a list of several URLs of different websites that have the most relevant response to your query.

There are of course a few bonus features such as an “I’m feeling lucky” button to take you to the first website in the results page.

There is of course a whole range of settings that I’m not going to mention here but they are there and provide a good level of customisation.


In conclusion the difference is small in some ways but quite substantial in others. Where the two have very similar goals for what they are doing they run very differently.

Read more: How to disable ReCaptcha

Where browsers are designed to give a user access to the internet a search engine is there to help a user search on the internet. Remember when you search in a task bar without a URL these are essentially just using a search engine to get results.

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By day he's an engineer and by night (well, evening or very early morning but night sounds way cooler) Alex runs the Apps UK ship. He has a keen interest in language, fitness & especially social media - he is always on the lookout for the next hot platform.

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