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What is the term for embarking on an internet search that leads from one website to another, to another, to a totally different site of non-related subject, based on information found in each subsequent search? Say, start looking at recipes initially and end up on Mediaeval monks, via early explorers, or whatever...hopping around all over the place and finding that a day has passed without your realising it.

  • Stumbleupon.com does it for you. – ermanen May 11 '15 at 5:09
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    Procrastination comes to mind, although it is not specific for browsing the web, but it's common to procrastinate by surfing the interwebs. Cleaning the house instead of doing something else (learning for class) would be one non-web kind of procrastination. – Jost May 11 '15 at 10:17
  • Thank you so much for not presuming that it should be a single term for this but allowing a phrase. However, you do seem to presume there is something special for this. – Mitch May 11 '15 at 11:33
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    xkcd.com/214 "The Problem with Wikipedia"... – aslum May 11 '15 at 13:18
  • I'm not clear why you speak of it in such a pejorative way. If someone was browsing encyclopaedias in a library, would you consider that a waste of time? – WS2 Feb 15 '16 at 10:35
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It's sometimes called falling down a rabbit hole. A rabbit hole is presumed to be a meandering subterranean tunnel with many forks that branch off to unknown locations. The metaphor was used (well before the World Wide Web was conceived) in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a strange and fantastic world.

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    "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." ―Morpheus, to Neo – user98990 May 11 '15 at 20:30
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surf the Web

idiom

Definition: The term surf, used in the context of "surf the Web", refers to the practice of browsing through Web sites: jumping from one link to the other, following items of interest, watching videos, and consuming all sorts of content; all on a variety of different sites. Since the Web is essentially a series of links, surfing the Web has become a very popular activity with millions of people across the world
About.com

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    It's not so much a series of links as it is one of tubes... – talrnu May 11 '15 at 14:53
  • @talrnu I finally got the joke -- haha good one! – amdn May 14 '15 at 15:26
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Most of the really cool kids call it “surfing.” They’re always flying by me on these huge, trending waves and flippin me the bird. But I don’t do cool, I don’t trend, and in the insane yet immortal words of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, “Charlie don’t surf!” So, as for me, I'm with Charlie and mean to meander. see, Google

Web Meandering

Confession: I like to meander on the web and find things I didn’t know I wanted to know. I’m not talking topics important to me, such as U.S. politics, for which I visit favorite blogs and news sites way too often. Meandering to me means wandering to find serendipitous discoveries.

For a long time I’ve relied on MetaFilter and Boing Boing for these excursions. Now I’ve found another detour that leads to the most unexpected findings, such as Forget Everything you thought you knew about Pole Dancing and Geeklist, the first social network for developers and the tech community.

This latest blow to productivity is Listropolis, which bills itself as the list of lists. Listropolis even lists 11 Sites With All the Lists You’ll Ever Need and 10 Sites for Finding Wonderful Things.

Listropolis, like my other web diversions, is online bricolage — the art of assembling diverse found objects. Luckily it has plenty of lists for improving productivity. From Cracked Window

There are times, however, when I just don’t feel like meandering (Mama told me there be days like these), and so, on those strange days, I choose instead to Wander the Web! see, Google

Wandering the Web

Although most of us may not recognize it, Pop culture surrounds us. We see it portrayed in television, cyberspace, radio, advertising, toys, art, literature, games, and music. As a source for pop culture information, the Web is a treasure trove; it contains a wealth of information in that area. With that in mind, I invite you to explore a selection of those pop culture Websites, below. They are arranged loosely by topic, but as pop culture is by nature rather free-form and ever-changing, the categories serve as guidelines only. At these Websites, you may find things that surprise, inform, interest, entertain, or even startle you, which is what makes pop culture such a fascinating area. See, Against the Grain Vol. 21 / Issue 6 / Article 10

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5

The phrase "yak shaving" fits this very well ... see here embodied as a gif: Story of my life

yak shaving: 2.(idiomatic)
A less useful activity done to consciously or unconsciously procrastinate about a larger but more useful task.
I looked at a reference manual for my car just to answer one question, but I spent the whole afternoon with my nose buried in it, just yak shaving, and got no work done on the car itself.
(Wiktionary)

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Tab Explosion

Two of the most common places to get lost on the internet are Wikipedia and TV Tropes. The latter (of course) has page dedicated to just this sort of thing, and they call it Tab Explosion after the fact that some sites can lead you to open interesting links in a new tab... if you find only 2 or 3 interesting links on every page you'll still end up with a huge amount of open tabs in short order.

WARNING: Don't click the link if you actually have things to do today.

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    +1 for invoking TV Tropes. Now what was I meant to be doing? – EleventhDoctor May 11 '15 at 15:04
  • +1 for the warning. Even if I should really -1 it just to keep the link buried as deep as possible, saving many people from the subsequent Tab Explosion. – Zachiel May 12 '15 at 11:17
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A web crawler is an autonomous computer program that does just what you describe: it aimlessly follows links from one website to another, crawling the web to form a map which search engines and the like can use to analyze the structure of the internet.

To be clear: I'm suggesting the term crawling the web as an answer to this question.

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  • Seems more like a comment than an answer. – EleventhDoctor May 11 '15 at 15:05
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    @EleventhDoctor The question asks for a term describing the act of visiting a series of websites. The term emphasized in my answer, crawling the web, describes this exact act. How is this more of a comment than an answer? – talrnu May 11 '15 at 17:36
  • @talmu The original answer read to me more like a fact apropos of the question than an answer. I see that you've added a clarifying sentence at the end now in any case. – EleventhDoctor May 12 '15 at 7:59

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