Posted October 29, 2009 6:51 pm by with 3 comments

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Earlier this month, StumbleUpon started showcasing their new homepage design, when they touted their “Google + Twitter” social search. Now they’ve gone through the rest of the site to make it more consistent (less customizable), easy to understand and streamlined.

Read Write Web reports:

The new interface is streamlined and more social with an updated relationship system. A focus on consistency (e.g., limiting user control of visual elements) and removal of clutter (e.g., presenting tags in a drop-down menu rather than a cloud) characterize the design changes made. Also, a few tweaks to group sharing were made to help reduce share-spam.

The most significant UX changes have occur[r]ed in the way friendships and subscriptions work on the site.

Now, your friends are you “Mutual Subscribers,” which makes the relationship a little clearer. They’re the people users can share pages with directly from the toolbar.

However, the redesign is largely changes like those—clarifying various site functions, streamlining the design, making things easier for users. The homepage, same as the beta featured earlier this month, highlights recent activity from Mutual Subscribers—but doesn’t place a big emphasis on the social search aspect they were talking about earlier this month.

So is StumbleUpon shying away from that? Or are they worried that their core user base was confused? I know I was a little worried when I first hear the social search news—even though I’m now an infrequent Stumbler, I didn’t want to lose that original “discovery engine,” even if it would be for a working social search model. However, the actual stumbling part of the service would remain—and maybe this is just to remind and reassure their users of that.

But it still seems like they haven’t really played up the social search aspect enough. While I remain highly skeptical of social search, it’s one of those brass rings for mainstream search engines—like Google, which announced Social Search in Labs, using sites that your Google contacts have viewed, as well as sites you’ve seen before in your Web History, Google Reader and associated Google services.

However, with StumbleUpon’s more targeted “Mutual Subscribers” option, you have the ability to control what friends you’re getting information from, instead of results from everyone you’ve ever emailed.

What do you think? Does StumbleUpon have a better chance of getting social search right? Is it shying away from that—and should it, now that Google’s officially thrown its hat into the ring?