Ever since StumbleUpon spun itself off from eBay last April, it’s been reinventing itself at a rapid pace. In June, it launched Su.pr, its own URL shortening service, but that was just an interesting new product. Today, it is starting to roll out a major redesign that recasts the service as a social search engine “somewhere between a Twitter and Google,” says founder Garrett Camp.
About 8 million people a month use StumbleUpon, says Camp, to bookmark and share the best sites on the Web. More than 35 million Web pages have been stumbled, and now the company has indexed them all to make them more searchable. The homepage has also been simplified to show you a stream of pages recently stumbled by people you know. New StumbleUpon users will see the redesign immediately, while existing users can switch by clicking here.
Traditionally, people went to StumbleUpon to randomly flip through interesting pages, but now it works more like a proper search engine. Except that it only returns pages already deemed to be worthy by the StumbleUpon community, and then within those results it shows you the pages that only people you subscribe to have Stumbled, rated, or reviewed. In that sense, it is like Yahoo’s now-defunct MyWeb experiment (but with actual users).
You can sort results by everyone, just your friends, or just your own Stumbles. And the new Discover tab lets you sort by most recent stumbles from your friends, top rated stumbles, most shared, or by topic. “It is halfway between search and discovery,” says Camp. “It is not as comprehensive as Google and not as realtime as Twitter.” The idea, rather, is to add a social layer to search without all the noise you get on Twitter.
StumbleUpon will also be releasing a new version of its toolbar later this week, which will add these social search features, as well as the ability to share links on Facebook and Twitter (using a Su.pr URL). Also the toolbar, like before, shows a little StumbleUpon icon on Google search results next to links that have been Stumbled. But it will support new sites including, Bing, CNN.com, Yahoo News, and the New York Times.