StumbleUpon: think Digg, but with staying power

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Last month, writing about our Web 2.0 valentine, I mentioned one of the surprises to come out of our little meme:

We've been involved in memes that went viral, but never one of our very own. And interestingly, the number one name in meme propagation, Digg, had very little to do with it; a vastly more significant chunk of traffic came via StumbleUpon. Which suggests to me that, just as you can't reliably predict whether something will catch fire, you never know where it will happen, either.

We aren't the only ones to notice this underappreciated web tool. Darren Barefoot at Capulet has a terrific, well-documented report on how StumbleUpon compared to Digg with two memes of his, iCryptex and First Life.

And he has charts and graphs to back him up, the most dramatic of which shows traffic to after six months:

Graph showing StumbleUpon outstripping all others

StumbleUpon tends to start small – which was our experience as well – but it is, as Darren says, "the gift that keeps on giving." It's still going strong on our site, too.

He sounds a cautionary note about reading too much into those numbers, though:

Earlier I called StumbleUpon visitors 'infovores'. That's true--they're definitely greater consumers of online information than the average person.

In shopping terms, the StumbleUpon user is browsing while the Digg user is buying. The very name and nature of StumbleUpon suggests a more casual, serendipitous relationship with the Web than the average voracious (and sometimes downright snippy) Digg user. There's no way to compare the broader (and no doubt greater) echo effect of Digg with that of StumbleUpon.

That's happened at our end, too. StumbleUpon users have tended to hit the one page and then move on to another site – suggesting an approach of browsing StumbleUpon rather than the sites it links to. Digg users (who are, in fairness, more technologically focused) linger and poke around.

If you're interested in the tools that drive web traffic, Darren's post is a must-read. One last excerpt, and then you really ought to check it out for yourself:

At Gnomedex last summer, people kept referring to 800-pound gorillas like Delicious and Digg. At the time I pointed out that instead of one big gorilla, maybe we needed 100 eight-pound orangutans. I failed zoology, because orangutans can weigh up to 175 lb. Based on the anecdotal evidence, though, it looks like StumbleUpon has been eating its fill of bananas. While Digg gets most of the attention these days, it's easy to forget that there are other primates in the jungle.


Darren says

March 5, 2007 - 11:33am
Thanks for the linkage!

Rob Cottingham says

March 5, 2007 - 5:27pm
Happy to... and thank you for a really useful piece of work. (Plus for iCryptex and First Life!)

Tisiwoota says

March 5, 2007 - 2:56pm
Not at all surprising that Stumbleupon should be the biggest factor, since it was a graphic that was being spread. A good portion of the stumble community (including me) focus on posting interesting images from sites, rather than just rating sites or commenting on them.

Rob Cottingham says

March 5, 2007 - 5:27pm
Interesting, Tisiwoota, and thanks for posting this. Is there more you can share about how you use StumbleUpon?

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