What is a Microbrowser?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

The term browser is short for web browser. A browser is a software application designed to locate and display websites. There are two types of microbrowser. A microbrowser — also called a mini-browser or mobile browser — is a browser especially designed for appropriate display on a mobile, handheld device, such as smartphones. A microbrowser adapts a browser’s services in ways that allow it to function more efficiently and appropriately in a mobile device environment. The other type of microbrowser is a browser that is designed to show a website in a dashboard.

Microbrowsers are designed to locate and display websites on mobile devices.
Microbrowsers are designed to locate and display websites on mobile devices.

Some microbrowsers are miniaturized versions of popular web browsers, while others are independently designed. Microbrowsers need to work in an environment with the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) wireless data connection. WAP is an open standard for wireless web page design. They also must function with limited bandwidth — which means small file sizes — and render content on a very small display screen.

As the use of handheld devices has grown, more websites have been built to be compatible both with the microbrowsers and with the devices. Since, for example, Apple® products like the iPhone® and iPad® will not render Adobe® Flash® — although by some reckonings 80% of web video content that is available is in Flash® — websites are being adapted to address this. On the other hand, the Google® Android® operating system has been updated to handle Flash®, making existing content accessible, but also requiring the microbrowsers be up to the task.

The development of microbrowsers has created a shift in enterprise marketing. In the past, development of Internet material such as web pages and applications “only” needed to take account of various web browsers, bandwidths, operating systems, and monitor sizes. Development for microbrowsers broadens considerably the number of environments one has to consider if one wants to reach all audiences.

A dashboard microbrowser works by making a connection between a specially-coded dashboard widget and a particular website URL. This can be accomplished by dragging and dropping a web page on the widget or entering the URL is a specified location. The dashboard microbrowser allows the user to periodically check on a website without opening a full browser, allowing for less interruption in other activities. This works best with a website that has an appropriate design and changing information focused in a designated area, like sports scores or stock market updates.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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