StumbleUpon’s New iPad App is Neat, But Can We Skip the Social?

By  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

StumbleUpon has always been one of my favorite iPad apps, an endless time-waster that with the press of a button sends you to seemingly random corners of the Internet. Now, it’s received a facelift.

The new app includes sorting options for photos, videos and news, along with a category view that makes it easier to find pages based on your topics of interest. StumbleUpon’s iPad app has also gained a couple of swipe-based gestures, allowing you to move forward and backward by dragging a finger across the screen.

So far, so good. But there’s one feature I could do without, and would like the option to disable: Every time you stumble to a new page, a message on top of the screen lists the username of a stranger who liked what he or she saw. Tapping the name takes you to that user’s profile, which lists age, gender and recent activity, and provides options for following that user.

That level of voyeurism crosses the creepy line for me. While it’s always been possible to look at user responses to a stumbled page, the presence of strangers is now right in your face.¬†I view StumbleUpon as a solitary experience, so it’s unnerving to realize that random people might stumble upon my activity so easily. The activity bar also takes up real estate on the screen that might be better spent on actual web pages.

Of course, StumbleUpon doesn’t work without a social element. Your decision to like or dislike a page feeds the service’s recommendation engine, but this is as much a self-serving feature as it is a way to connect with other users, because the more you like or dislike, the better your results will be. StumbleUpon can thrive without shoving human interaction down users’ throats. I wish the iPad app included a way to stumble alone.

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