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Stumbleupon died right when we needed it the most

The explosion of online content and people’s changing internet habits ultimately led to the site’s demise — ironically at a time when we need something as simple and unfiltered as Stumbleupon the most.

Image: shutterstock/mashable composite

Happy stumbling no more.

Stumbleupon shuttered recently after 16 years of bringing tailored content to users.

The unsocial media platform received multiple large name angel investors at its inception, people like self-help writer Tim Ferriss and early Google investor Ram Shriram. At one point, it had more publisher traffic than YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Google combined.

Stumbleupon’s future seemed bright. It was named one of TIME‘s 50 best websites in 2007 and logged more than 1 billion stumbles per month in 2011. (I probably accounted for a couple thousand of those.)

“Stumbleupon pioneered content discovery on the web, before the concepts of the ‘like button’, ‘news feed’ or ‘social media’ were mainstream,” wrote Stumbleupon cofounder Garrett Camp on Medium in May.

“The number of platforms to share or host content has increased significantly, yet we still need better tools to help us filter through the exploding amount of content on the web, and find signal within the noise.”

This is unfortunately a task that people are still grappling with, but now without the training wheels of Stumbleupon to better guide us through the weird, confusing thing that is the internet, we’re faced with a barrage of content shared by noisy, angry users.

I was shocked to learn about Stumbleupon’s closure. Sure, I wouldn’t use it for months at a time, but it was always there for me. It was like that high school friend you don’t talk with for months at a time, but you can pick up the friendship right where it left off.

It was always there for me

Peak™ online content now is some snarky one-liner on Twitter to accompany an article. It’s a Facebook friend regurgitating a jargon-filled rant preceding a link bearing bad news. It’s a conspiracy theory comment that beckons Redditors to learn more. They all involve networks of people filtering information and molding how it’s presented to you. 

The Wall Street Journal even created a platform this year called NewsPicks, which it calls a “curation and commenting app” that relies on people commenting on articles.

NewsPicks has bigwigs like Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and former CNN political anchor Candy Crowley on it, who espouse their views on articles and skew how users perceive the content even before they read it. In that way, the app is even worse than social media echo chambers, since these are influential people affecting how people view articles before reading them.

Stumbleupon was the antithesis of that. Stumble: funky Flash game. Stumble: unsolved murder list. Stumble: nature picture.

It taught people like myself the internet’s wide-ranging beauty simply by presenting websites in their pure forms. The only bit of outside influence was the amount of people who liked the content, and it was nonplussed by the advent of commenting and liking and reacting.

If you didn’t like the content, you could hit a thumbs-down button or just click stumble to roll onto a new website — no mean comments were involved, no Twitter fights broke out, and nobody but Stumbleupon needed to know you disliked it.

What a notion.

But now there’s no more of Stumbleupon’s pure, unadulterated content. All we have is angst-filled social media with a new monster around every corner. 

Sad stumbling through the interwebs now, everyone. Sad stumbling and watch your step.

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