StumbleUpon steps up online discovery service

StumbleUpon stepped up its personalised website recommendation service on Wednesday by launching an online query page and alliances that include the Huffington Post and Rolling Stone.

Unlike Google, Yahoo and other search engines designed to help people efficiently scour the internet with specific targets in mind, StumbleUpon’s “discovery engine” finds websites that promise to appeal to users’ passions.

“Search is really powerful when you know what you’re looking for,” said StumbleUpon general manager Michael Buhr.

“Discovery is more about when you want to explore your interests. It is not about needing to find something now.”

StumbleUpon has more than six million people using it routinely and the “average stumbler is stumbling” about ten times daily, as compared to the twice a day average racked-up by users of online search engines, according to Buhr.

Prior to Wednesday, StumbleUpon was available as a toolbar that could be added to web browsers used to navigate the internet.

The eBay-owned company has also arranged to put its technology to work letting people “stumble” about the Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and howstuffworks websites.

The discovery technology combines peer recommendations, mathematics and social networking to figure out which online content in any given topic might most appeal to a particular user.

Registering with the service is free and as people venture about the internet they indicate which content they like and which they dislike, letting StumbleUpon learn their preferences.

Websites that users like are added to the StumbleUpon database from which recommendations are made.

There are reportedly 21-million websites listed in the StumbleUpon database.

“Business is growing really well,” Buhr said, noting the number of users has doubled in the past year. “We really believe we have critical mass now.”

People can stumble within websites, for example asking the service to find them videos in YouTube, photos in Flickr, or music in MySpace.

“You can say which people on StumbleUpon are friends and we incorporate their choices into what you might like,” Buhr said. “We harness algorithms and social recommendations to find what will be interesting to you.”

StumbleUpon makes money through advertiser-sponsored pages that are recommended “a small percentage of the time” to online explorers.

If an advertiser-sponsored page is not well received, it is pulled, according to Buhr.

StumbleUpon was founded in 2001 in Canada and moved to San Francisco, where it was bought by eBay in May of 2007 for $75-million. There have been recent unconfirmed reports that eBay is considering selling the firm. – AFP

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