4 minute read.

What if Google bought StumbleUpon?

Paul Anthony / August 19, 2011

Posted in: Archive

StumbleUpon, is something of a sleeping giant. The largest discovery engine on the web is now in it’s 10th year, and has established a user base of over 13 million. According to ComScore, StumbleUpon is growing at a rate of 20% month on month for the last couple of months, partly due to the introduction of mobile applications. On top of that, recent trends and data from StatCounter suggest that StumbleUpon is now responsible for 34% of all social traffic.


That said, Stumbleupon traffic is particularly bouncy, with the very nature of the application encouraging the user base to jump between sites, and as a result, they don’t tend to explore content for too long before clicking away, often with the result that publishers don’t feel their offering has much value. Although the numbers are good, they also don’t have the user base that even Google+ in its infancy has at the minute (20 million est.).

That’s not to say that they don’t bring anything to the table. The recent introduction of the Explore box, has given users a much more granular level of control over the content which they browse, allowing you to for example, explore and stumble not only Music, but articles related to a particular Artist. Although many pundits have questioned the ‘usefulness’ of such a service, Stumbleupon’s discovery engine does alot of sophisticated work behind the scenes to build up a profile of the sort of content a user will enjoy, and is highly customized to individual tastes.

There are a couple of strategic elements to the Stumbleupon service that makes it a contender for acquisition by a tech giant like Google.

User Targeting

The increasing drive towards a service that knows what and when you are interested in something has been an obvious part of Google’s strategy.  Stumbleupon have already managed to build up a pretty good picture of their users interests. What if those users were Google users? What level of customisation on Ad targeting could Google provide on top of what they already know about us?

Content Discovery

Although Google already do a pretty good job at discovering content. The added ability to find fresh content inside particular topic categories and areas would undoubtedly be useful to their service overall. In combination with social data garnered from Google+, content receiving votes inside the StumbleUpon ecosystem could also provide additional insight.

With Google’s ‘Sparks’ product inside Google plus, fresh content is delivered to its users. What impact would having freshly stumbled data add to the experience? If there is one trend we can count on, it is that content finds us, rather than us finding content on the web, and I know a few users (at least) that are using the rich content from StumbleUpon to supplement their content sharing activities on Google+, and indeed on other platforms.

Crowdsourced Taxonomy

Although typically Google prefer to perform this operation in scale themselves, Stumbleupon have crowdsourced this from their own user base, and as the service grows in size, they are learning more and more about what content fits where. Google haven’t been totally opposed to this approach, anyone who has used Google image labeller, or phoned Google directory enquiries will have been generating data that Google has used to improve its services (image search, and voice recognition respectively).

With the very granular level of categorisation that this is providing them, the quality that SU have in their data is going to produce some pretty interesting stuff down the line.

Social voting.

We all know that social votes are part of what is going to shape ranking algorithms somewhere down the line. It’s one of the reasons Google have got into social in such a big way this year. Stumbleupon have already a significant reach in terms of their social button adoption, and the data combined from Google+ and SU would provide even more power over Facebook going forward.

Sure, this is pie in the sky stuff. But with Google’s toolbar reaching far and wide across Google properties, and Stumbleupon’s toolbar also being a core part of their strategy, I can see a few parallels between the two. What do you think? Would you be happy to see StumbleUpon a part of Google’s social strategy?

  • Google
  • social
  • social bookmarking
  • stumbleupon