What Does the Phrase “Surfing the Internet” Mean?

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Surfing the Internet is a term typically used to describe an undirected type of web of browsing where users whimsically follow one interesting link to another without a planned search strategy or definite objective. Surfing the net has become a popular pastime, for many Internet users.

Surfing the Internet’ is not to be confused with the phrase ‘browsing the Internet’ which refers to exploring the web with a clear-cut objective but without any planned search strategies. Searching the web refers to exploring the Internet with a definite in both strategy and objective.

Surfing the Internet has been likened to the ironic term ‘channel surfing’, which is used to describe randomly changing TV channels. Its only relation to actual surfboarding has to do with the notion of ‘going with flow’ when surfing.

Jean Armour Polly is credited with the first published use of the phrase. She used it in an article titled ‘surfing the Internet’ that was published, in the June 1992 issue of the monthly magazine, Wilson Library Bulletin.

Polly was also key in popularizing the phrase; she maintains that she purposefully wanted it to have the exact connotation it currently has. Coining the phrase has since been attributed to Internet pioneer Mark McCahill.