Remember StumbleUpon, the recommendation engine that lets you surf the web for random sites—but mostly sites that other people liked in your areas of interest? (If you haven’t tried it, it’s pretty fun). Well, since they bought themselves back from eBay in April, they’re changing things up. According to TechCrunch, StumbleUpon is revamping itself as a service “between Google and Twitter” with its new search features.
With 8 million users Stumbling, StumbleUpon has amassed 35 million pages that at least one person likes. Now they’ve indexed these pages so you can search recommended pages. In a sense, it is a bit like Google and Twitter—recommendations from your friends get a boost in the rankings, while you still get to search millions of pages for relevant results.
If this catches on, this could constitute the first real, meaningful steps toward social search. They already have a decent user base, so if they can get that base accustomed to the new features (and add more users, of course), they could dominate the fledgling social search arena.
Using an established social site that’s already cornering the market on social discovery to premiere social search might just be the stroke of genius social search is waiting for. However, ultimately, social search will most likely constitute a narrow niche. (You might want your friends’ recommendations for, say, muffin recipes, but they might not be so helpful in finding the population of Bora Bora.)
Although you don’t have to have one to stumble, StumbleUpon isn’t abandoning their toolbar, either. A new version will release this week, with new features. Their recently-launched URL shortener, su.pr, will integrate with the toolbar for sharing links on Twitter and Facebook through the bar.
They’re also getting a new homepage, which highlights your friends’ most popular recent stumbles:
Of course, StumbleUpon is still going to let you randomly surf the web (I think . . . ) and thumb up new pages to add to their index.
What do you think? Will this be the first steps in social search? Or will it never catch on?