World Wide Web – “a system of interlinked, hypertext documents that runs over the Internet” – was invented some 20 years ago by Tim Berners-Lee, only the word “surf” has yet managed to find its way into the draft additions of the Second Edition (1989) of the Oxford English Dictionary. Admittedly, the OED has not been updated for 17-18 years, but it does point up the relative immaturity of the Internet.
A quick search of Google was more helpful in providing us with a
range of definitions to consider (for the purposes of this essay I
shall treat both terms as synonyms). Although many of the
definitions of surfing and
emphasise the exploratory nature of both activities, words such as
“leisurely”, “casual”, “randomly”, “aimless”, “superficial”,
“directionless” and even “serendipitous” pepper Google’s list of
definitions. Nevertheless, despite their frivolous connotations,
browsing and surfing are also valuable research tools and a number
of attempts have been made to categorise this “rich and fundamental
human information behavior" (Chang and Rice, 1993).