Stumbling Through the Internet

January 30, 2014

By Web Programmer Richard Joswick

The Internet is a global collective. Humans are social creatures. No wonder that so many sites exist to share experiences, photos, images, and websites. One of these websites is Stumble Upon. If you’ve never used Stumble Upon, you’re in luck. This is your opportunity to see if this service makes sense for your Internet browsing. This article is all about Stumble Upon from a beginner’s point of view.

The address for Stumble Upon is http://stumbleupon.com. It is a tool for discovering the Internet. To do so successfully, Stumble Upon collects quite a bit of information. This information consists of preferences, ratings, and subscriptions. To do this in a meaningful way, Stumble Upon requires identifying you. This requires setting up an account in typical fashion. It asks for a name, user name, password, and e-mail address. The e-mail address is used for confirmation purposes.

Immediately, Stumble Upon is looking for a starting point. This starting point is provided by checking interests. Categories include computers, science fiction, politics, and more. From there, a series of sequential help pages will guide you to new features of Stumble Upon. Here it is important to consider what Stumble Upon is. Stumble Upon is a social network at its core. Most people use it to just discover cool new things. But there is functionality to share, to send e-mail, to like, to dislike, and to categorize everything that you visit.

Beyond the social aspect, there are only three buttons at the heart of Stumble Upon. They appear in the center of the main menu in the form of a ‘Thumbs Down’, 'Stumble’, and a 'Thumbs Up.’ Everything is geared to predicting what you like. Stumble Upon provides service by delivering content it anticipates you will enjoy. The more you rank via the 'Thumbs Down’ and the 'Thumbs Up’, the better it can accomplish that task. But once you rank a page, what do you do?

That is where the 'Stumble’ button comes in. Whenever pressed, Stumble Upon takes your entire aggregate preferences and delivers a new page to you. It could be an image. It could be an entire web page. It could be from any of the categories you specified as an interest. But whatever it gives you, you’ll be able to rate the page, enjoy it, and then stumble upon the next.

Stumble Upon prides itself as being a meritocracy. Unlike Google or Bing, Stumble Upon does not crawl the web. If a page is viewed on Stumble Upon, it means that someone, somewhere, submitted the page. But it is considered bad form to submit your own content. After all, it is one thing to like your own content. It is something else entirely for a complete stranger to. To this end, Stumble Upon provides embeddable links that can be clicked on a web page to instantly share. This works similar to 'Liking’ a page on Facebook. Add-ons for popular browsers like Firefox and Chrome are also available through the usual channels. If all else fails, you can always share that cool web discovery through http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit.

Once signed onto the service, there are many ways to discover new content. The primary method, the Stumble button, has already been discussed. But there are additional ways, too. First, you can follow similar users. This works much like Twitter where you can follow someone and get instantaneously updated whenever they tweet. Or you can subscribe to additional interest groups or set up your own list. Stumble Upon is flexible. It allows you to get as involved socially as you would like. But it is also enjoyable for those who simply want to stumble through the Internet alone.

An army of users all stumbling through the Internet using a shared service certainly represents a considerable advertising base. Stumble Upon did not miss this fact. The company offers a Paid Delivery service. It can be used to favor pages on a paid basis. Before this manifests as a silver bullet of all web advertising, there are a number of important considerations to judge. Most users of Stumble Upon are not looking for textually advanced content. They are looking for visually stunning, humorous, or easy to digest graphical images. Any Paid Delivery service needs to take this into consideration. Also, Stumble Upon strives to maintain high-quality links. To this end, they do not allow links to products directly. They look for images, other media files, or highly informative content pages, instead.

Collaborative sharing is a hallmark of the Internet. Although many services provide sharing, Stumble Upon handles this task by trying to provide tailored, high-quality pages. If you ever run out of things to do on the Internet, Stumble Upon is a service worth looking into.