The eBay owned website discovery service StumbleUpon (well eBay owned for now, if the rumors of the site being on the market are true) is set to relaunch with a major overhaul that removes the need for users to install the StumbleUpon browser plugin.
StumbleUpon has been fairly popular, attracting some 6 million users since first launching in 2002. However, their reliance on a browser plugin is a natural growth inhibitor; some people simply won't install a plug-in, particularly one as obtrusive as StumbleUpon offers, others simply don't have access, with StumbleUpon offering plugins for Internet Explorer and Firefox only. The new StumbleUpon caters to both registered users and casual visitors; anyone visiting StumbleUpon will be able to surf their range of sites on any browser without a plugin, and that's got to help bring new users through the door.
StumbleUpon isn't abandoning their browser plugin, despite the changes. It's hoped that the new offering opens StumbleUpon to new users, but old users won't miss out.
StumbleUpon is also moving more into the social voting space through a new program called StumbleThru. Initial site partners include The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and HowStuffWorks. It looks like a social voting widget ala Digg or Reddit buttons, and site visitors are able to vote for content via the widget. Users will either then be taken to the formal voting page on StumbleUpon, or to another site in the StumbleUpon network of recommended sites. According to VentureBeat, StumbleUpon is limiting this program to "quality sites" to avoid gaming of the system, so it's limited on wider use.
I like StumbleUpon. I like it as both a user, and an advertiser. When we launched The Inquisitr, we had a small advertising budget, and I tried a number of sites, and one I kept going back to was StumbleUpon. The traffic was real, and it helped us in exposing the site to new visitors, and every time I renewed the ad spend, I could measure the success not only in traffic (you may pay for 500 page views, but if you get enough positive votes you end up getting a lot more), but in RSS subscriptions as well. As much as I haven't used it now for some time, I'm happy to recommend it to others.
These changes are both an obvious and logical step forward for StumbleUpon. The site has been losing traffic, at least according to Compete, Quantcast and Alexa, and they need to do something new to increase page views, particularly at a time they may well be on the market. This is the right move, and it can certainly do no harm.
(image credit: VentureBeat)