A new online friend, Dave Atkins, asked recently what the value of Stumblupon was. “Who has time to randomly browse web for interesting things?” I’ve been thinking of that too. After all, there are dozens of social bookmarks or social news submission networks around the Web. You can see the best — or at least the most popular — over at popurls.com. Digg, delicious, Reddit, Yahoo! Buzz, Truemors, Newsvine, Metafilter, Slashdot — all the usual suspects plus many of the world’s top blogs and newspapers.
When I saw what Marshall Kirkpatrick had written StumbleUpon Hits 7 Million Users, Quietly 50% Bigger Than Twitter” at ReadWriteWeb, however, clarity of utility of the service came quickly. Here’s how he put it:
What’s got a button to push, knows how to make money while changing the world and is read all over? StumbleUpon! The social discovery network [is] like Pandora for webpages and videos.”
Needless to say, that got my attention. Twitter’s business model is one of the great speculative exercises of our time — well, at least in the hothouse garden of the social media world. Mark D. Drapeau‘s thoughts on Twitter’s vision offer considerable insight concerning the possibilities for the popular microblogging service. As Marshall notes, however, Stumbleupon has several things going for it that Twitter does not quite enjoy, at least to date.
- Stumbleupon has its own Firefox plugin and Toolbar. While there are many addons that allow you to add a Twitter bookmarklet to your browser, to date Twitter does not provide one itself. Small potatoes compared to the next three.
- Stumble upon is a social discovery service. As Marshall wrote, it’s ‘like Pandora for websites and videos.” This resonates with me on a fundamental level. I’ve chosen who I follow on Twitter carefully; my network brings me news I care about constantly, especially when I ask questions about specific subjects. Stumbleupon, however, adds an algorithm and 7 million other clickers to the challenge of finding more content for me. That’s incredibly powerful. I adore Pandora — and my stations continue to get better at tuning music to my interests. So if the parallel holds true, there’s every reason to keep “stumbling” while I “tweet” away.
- Stumbleupon is profitable. According to Marshall, “Advertisers pay a few pennies to have their pages inserted into the Stumble streams of relevant users and those ads are silently voted on just like any other page. Silicon Alley Insider estimates the company was making $10 million each year as of this Fall.” If Twitter monetizes the realtime search at search.twitter.com, maybe they’ll get there too.
- Stumbleupon delivers massive amounts of traffic. I can vouch for that. When tweeted about my last post, Online J.R.R.Tolkien Translators and Font Converters, I earned a few dozen clicks and a retweet or two from friends like Shava. When one of those people Stumbled the post, however, I immediately began receiving a river of visitors to the blog (relative to normal traffic, anyway).
In sum, that’s all powerful. And it’s all occurred without much notice. So here’s my answer to Dave’s question: Stumbleupon has some power when one person uses it to bookmark sites and explore the Web that way. Like delicious or Twitter, however, the service shines when all of those clicks are analyzed and used to rate content on the Web. We’re all deluged with increasing amounts of information online; the websites that matter to me are the ones that help me make sense of it all. I haven’t been using Stumbleupon at all in 2009. I suspect Marshall’s post may change that. Who knows? Maybe I’ll stumble across you. You can find digiphile on Stumbleupon here.