By Harry McCracken | Monday, December 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm
StumbleUpon, the venerable service for finding cool Web sites that has always emphasized serendipity over structure, is unveiling a major makeover tonight. The basic idea remains the same: You can find interesting sites, one after another, by pressing a Stumble button (and can recommend sites you like so other folks stumble upon them). But the StumbleUpon site and Web-based toolbar (now called the StumbleBar) have a new logo and a fresh coat of paint, and some new features make it easier to use StumbleUpon to wander around the Web in a slightly more organized fashion.
The service already had an “Explore an Interest” search option that let you enter a keyword and then stumble through sites that related to it. Now it’s much more prominent–it’s part of the StumbleBar, which it wasn’t before–thereby encouraging you to focus your stumbling if you choose. And the list of interests on the StumbleUpon home page is more prominent,
StumbleUpon has also signed up a bunch of media companies and other organizations–from Funny or Die and the CNN to GE and Campbell’s–to create 250 channels, which are feeds of their content. You can follow a channel, then stumble around it, letting you wander randomly in one particular site.
As always, what makes StumbleUpon interesting isn’t StumbleUpon: It’s the sites it leads to, which are quirky, unpredictable, and, much of the time, really neat. That hasn’t changed, and it remains mighty appealing even if you direct your exploration a little more than you might have in the past.
The StumbleUpon folks gave me a sneak peek of the revised service, and I enjoyed what I saw. (I don’t check in on the service all that often, but when I do, it’s hard to stop stumbling.) The whole experience feels more modern, and I’ll bet StumbleUpon fans like it, as long as they can get used to the all-new look, which has little in common with the site’s old, familiar self. (The StumbleUpon mobile apps haven’t been updated yet and don’t sport the new design and all the new features, but they’ll get them at some point.)
If you check out the new version, let us know what you think.