Navigating the internet is a tough task, even with a search engine. That’s why Garrett Camp and his colleagues set up StumbleUpon.com, a more sociable way to find new sites
.net: How has StumbleUpon grown since it was originally launched?
GC: We registered StumbleUpon in 2001 and grew to about 10,000 users in the first year. These were really active members who gave lots of feedback and suggestions to improve it. This was great, because at this time we were self-funded and working out of our bedrooms. When we moved to San Francisco at the beginning of 2006, we had about 500,000 registered users, and since then we’ve passed 1.5 million users and 3.5 million Stumbles per day.
.net: In your opinion, what’s the main attraction of your app for users?
GC: StumbleUpon is about personalised content discovery – people use it to discover new and interesting websites that come recommended from their peers. The toolbar integration helps a lot, since it allows people to easily submit any new site they find with a single mouseclick. This increases the quantity and diversity of content on Stumble – nearly 15,000 new websites are submitted each day. The interactive and social aspects of StumbleUpon are part of the attraction for its users too, because you are actively improving your experience as you Stumble, rate and review new sites.
At the beginning we didn’t have a lot of community features. However, we have added many over the last few years, which have helped to make the Stumble experience much more compelling.
StumbleUpon’s results are personalised to the user’s preferences
.net: What was the inspiration behind creating it?
GC: We started StumbleUpon a few years after search engines became popular. Our goal was to create a system where you didn’t have to search to find highquality content, a service that would recommend relevant content based on your personal preferences. For example, keyword searches on Google deliver the same results to everyone – it’s ‘one size fits all’. StumbleUpon is different; I’ll get different results than you will, because we have different profiles and interests. StumbleUpon’s results are personalised to the user’s preferences.
.net: How do you think Stumble fits into the ‘social’ Web 2.0 phenomenon?
GC: The ratings and reviews on StumbleUpon connect users up with others who share common interests, even if they’re not looking for friends. People really like the social interaction that StumbleUpon facilitates, particularly since it happens in a very natural and casual way. Social networking isn’t the main purpose of Stumble, of course, but it definitely helps create a more meaningful experience than a regular web search.
.net: ‘Stumblers’ leave comments saying that they wouldn’t have found a particular site if it wasn’t for StumbleUpon. Do you get that a lot?
GC: We get comments like this all the time. It’s great to hear from people who find value in the serendipity of StumbleUpon. People also really like the social interaction – it feels different to other online communities. The ratings and reviews connect people with similar interests in a gradual and casual way, and the social networking component improves the experience.
.net: How do you plan to develop StumbleUpon?
GC: We’re continually developing the technology behind it to improve the experience. We recently added a web-based interface, which lets people submit and review sites without having to download the toolbar. We’ve also launched Search Reviews – an integration of our database of reviews with popular search engines, so when you search through Google or Yahoo, for example, you can see which sites other Stumblers like or dislike. This is available on both Firefox and IE.
To make it easier to submit content to Stumble, we’ve recently added a web-based interface which lets you submit pages using a similar process to digg or del.icio.us. This lets people submit and review sites without the toolbar installed, so it should increase the number and diversity of content contributors.
.net: Even some Web 2.0 juggernauts like Friendster are losing ground to much smaller Web 2.0 sites. What’s your plan to keep Stumble on the up?
GC: Friendster and other social networking sites popularised the idea of making connections online, but not everyone wants to use the web for that purpose. Search engines have wider appeal, but they don’t consider who you know or what you like when delivering results. We’ve combined the two approaches, and employed Web 2.0 concepts right from the beginning. The social networking aspect of Stumble is not shoved in your face, it’s just one piece of the overall experience; you can either make your stamp on the web (by submitting or rating sites) or just surf anonymously. We are continuing to add new opt-in community features which will help people discover great content.
.net: How many sites have you stumbled upon?
GC: About 15,000 – it’s a lot of info! The more boxes you tick for your interests, the more sites you’ll find. .net: Are we in a Web 2.0 bubble? Is it going to burst? GC: I don’t think we are really in a bubble. The valuations are a lot more reasonable this time around, and most of the business models make sense. It may be a slight funding bubble, but it hasn’t extended into public markets like it did in the late 1990s.