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noun [uncountable]

the activity of searching the World Wide Web for occurrences of your own name


verb [intransitive] noun [countable]


noun [countable]

'Egosurfing, the practice of harnessing the Internet's vast data-collection powers to dig up information about oneself, has proved a popular application on the World Wide Web.'

Wired News 4th April 2001

'When I applied for my top-secret clearance at my last job, I egosurfed a bit to see what the DSS would find if they searched the Web to find out about me.'

anonymous Internet mailing list May 2001

current popular use of the term usually refers to searching the web

Egosurfing, the practice of searching for references to your own name on the Internet, has become a popular recreational activity in recent years. Individuals participate in egosurfing in the hope of making the surprise discovery that they are a minor celebrity somewhere in the virtual world, though a common result is seeing that some report or other they co-wrote during their professional life has been put on the web. Egosurfing is also a way to find out how many of a site's web pages are indexed by a search engine or referred to by other sites. The term has spawned a related intransitive verb, egosurf, with a countable noun homograph often occurring as part of the phrase do an egosurf. Those who regularly engage in the activity are described with slightly disapproving overtones as egosurfers.

If reading this article tempts you to become an egosurfer, try not to get too excited – the most likely outcome is the not-so-fascinating discovery that many people around the world have the same name as you!

Background – egosurfing

The term egosurfing dates from 1995, when it first appeared in the 'Jargon Watch' column of Wired magazine. The original definition also encompassed other kinds of written or electronic media, such as research papers or databases, though current popular use of the term usually refers to searching the web.

Ego is a noun which refers to self-esteem or self-importance and is used productively in a range of words and compounds which relate to 'self', such as egocentric and ego trip. It dates from early nineteenth-century Latin, meaning literally 'I'. The transitive/intransitive sense of the verb surf as 'randomly browse the Internet' has begun to enter dictionaries of British and American English during the last 5 years or so, still usually listed as a secondary or specialist sense after the established intransitive sense 'ride on waves with a surfboard'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 30th April 2004.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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