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.
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.
surf the Web
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.