When you think of social media, two products immediately come to mind: Facebook and Twitter. If you're in the technical world, you'd probably also mention Digg and Slashdot. A product that is rarely talked about among social media products, but has a surprisingly large footprint on the Web, is StumbleUpon. It now has 10.6 million users and regularly pushes big traffic to online publishers.
According to a new analysis by Web analytics company Woopra, StumbleUpon drives nearly twice as much traffic than Digg. StatCounter uncovered a similar trend recently, with StumbleUpon second only to Facebook among social media traffic drivers.
What's Popular on StumbleUpon?
"Explore the web like never before," declares the StumbleUpon sign up page. And indeed the beauty of StumbleUpon is how easy it makes browsing the Web. It's often called a 'serendipity engine' for its ability to turn up strange and new content.
Here's how StumbleUpon works as a user. You firstly download and install a browser add-on, then select categories that interest you. Now you're ready to explore. Simply click the Stumble button in your browser to be magically transported to an unknown web page. Where you're taken is driven by StumbleUpon's sophisticated recommendation engine, which is fueled by data from its users - who vote on whether they 'like' or 'dislike' web pages across the Web.
It's simple for the users, yet surprisingly difficult for the media industry to get its collective head around. Its randomness and lack of an easily identifiable core audience are two things that make StumbleUpon hard to understand. So what kind of content is popular there?
Much like Digg, another crowd-sourced recommendation engine, the most popular content on StumbleUpon tends to be easily digestable and entertaining. Lists, bizarre things, scientific discoveries, animals, humor, images, and so on. Among the most stumbled content of 2009 were these articles: '99 Things You Should Have Seen On The Internet' (471K Stumbles), 'Life Summarized in 4 Bottles' (439K Stumbles), '14 Rare Color Photos From the FSA-OWI' (341K Stumbles),... you get the idea.
How the ReadWriteWeb Community Uses StumbleUpon
We queried our community via Twitter to find out their main use cases. Here's a representative sample of the replies (you can see them all via Twitoaster):
@brettmorrison: "I use it to share things I find interesting and I use it to find randomly interesting things when I have a few free moments."
@EssenteeWeb: "So's I can share what I think is cool and find content I otherwise wouldn't have."
@andinarvaez: "I do, on occasion. Whenever I'm online, want to stay online, but just feel like browsing. [...] Even though they're [within] my interests, stumble upon helps me burst my usual browsing patterns & online bubble."
@rjanyk: "boredom... killing time a couple minutes at a time... entertainment. Sadly, almost thrilling not knowing what's coming next"
@MicaR: "Been a Stumbler for yrs. Great to get new ideas flowing when stuck, and, of course, great time waster. I've learned a lot, randomly."
@ezy80: "I find its a good source of 'random relevant' that nothing else provides in quite the same way..."
@lauratellsjokes: "i stumble when i am bored and to learn new things. i love stumbling through photos, art and philosophy."
@estateofflux: "I do, great for entertainment and uncovering hidden gems of content when you've exhausted all your usual sources!"
These and other replies often used words like "random" or "new." Also it seems that people tend to use StumbleUpon when they have a bit of spare time, or are bored.
Let us know in the comments whether you currently use StumbleUpon; and if so, how and why?Discuss