Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Why do we call it "surfing" the Web?

Asked by ETpro (34145 points ) December 10th, 2011

Here you are, surfing the web to stumble on this question. But why surfing? When we actually surf, we paddle out a short distance from shore, catch a wave that carries us back in, then paddle out again to repeat the same process. Surfing the Web is nothing like that. It’s more like sailing the world’s seas to visit all its distant shores. It’s like exploring, browsing, studying, shopping. Sometimes it’s even colonizing, setting up a Web site in a spot we find interesting. So how did the word “Surf” come to represent what we do when we browse the Web?

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15 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

I would think it derived from the term channel surfing, which predates the web, and referred to clicking rapidly through TV channels, looking for something interesting.

marinelife's avatar

Because you are riding the etheric “waves”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because if we’re not careful… it will drown us.

mazingerz88's avatar

The one who coined the phrase thought he heard “wave” instead of web. That’s gotta be it!
: )

wundayatta's avatar

surfing is generally the metaphor used to indicate constantly responding to changing conditions; to new information. Yes, sailing requires the same talent, but it doesn’t seem so dynamic in sailing because, although there are times when things change from second to second, there are also long boring times where nothing changes.

The web is more like surfing than sailing for most people because our focus changes; our direction changes; and the rate of change is also constantly changing. Even though surfing doesn’t last that long, the stuff we do online is more like what we do on a surf board while riding a wave that what we do on a sailboat when riding the wind. Waves always change. Winds can be pretty steady for long periods of time.

And that’s what I got for you. Sorry if it isn’t all that sexy.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Interesting, though I still think you get further sailing than surfing.

wundayatta's avatar

Further in distance? Sure. But at the expense of granularity. Surfing allows for a finer level of analysis. Trade-offs. Neither is better or worse. The question is which characterizes more of the internet utilization behavior (iub) that we see?

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta And you seriously content that’s why they called it surfing? :-)

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro Why yes. I am content. I am also unanimous in that! ;-)

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Unanimous? Proof, please.

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro Meet me downtown at the ING cafe and I’ll show you how unanimous I am!

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Ha! They don’t have an ING Direct Cafe in Boston. In fact, they only have 8 in the entire USA., Hardly unanimous. Besides, unanimity is not a property a single person can possess.

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro
Wrong colonial metropolis. And just you wait! I’ll show you EXACTLY how unanimous I am!

Be there or be square!

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Ha! I think I am at serious risk of being square. But then, what else is new?

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro Really, don’t they say there’s nothing new under the sun?

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