Shopping, news and travel sites are among the most likely to benefit from aimless web surfing or ‘wilfing’, according to a new survey.

Commissioned by, the study found UK internet users spend an average of two days a month browsing the web without any real purpose.

The practice has been dubbed wilfing, short for ‘what was I looking for?’

A quarter of those surveyed said they spent 30% or more of their time wilfing, while internet users over 55 were three times less likely to do it than those under 25.

Men are bigger wilfers than women, but shopping websites came out as the biggest cause.

Jason Lloyd, head of broadband at, said:

“The internet was designed to make it easier for people to access the information they need quickly and conveniently.

“However, our study shows that although people log on with a purpose, they are now being offered so much choice and online distraction that many forget what they are there for, and spend hours aimlessly wilfing instead.”

Pete Cohen, national TV motivator and life coach, told the BBC:

"Not allowing ourselves to 'Wilf' takes a mixture of planning and willpower - these days there are all manner of websites gunning for our attention.

"Set yourself a specific surfing goal and time limit to keep on track. Set pop-up blockers on your PC to save you being distracted.

"And when you're buying things online, think about using online services that will trawl the net for you and allow you to get off the computer and on with your life."

The research was conducted by YouGov and questioned 2,412 adults. 


Published 10 April, 2007 by Richard Maven

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