StumbleUpon began opening up its new URL shortening service this morning and we have 250 invites included below. StumbleUpon is great for two things: discovering fabulous new websites and getting waves of traffic sent to sites you publish. The new URL service is indeed quite Su.pr (that's its name) but we wonder if it will lead to such an influx of publisher-submitted content that content submitted by users because it's cool will have more noise to compete with.Social serendipity service
For publishers the service looks very cool, it includes features we haven't seen anywhere else and offers access to the huge Stumble audience.
The Su.pr link shortening service offers the following:
- Real time analytics showing how many people click through your links, how many came via StumbleUpon in particular and who the most prolific "reTweeters" have been.
- Easy publishing to Twitter and Facebook, including the ability to schedule those links and messages to be pushed out at a particular time.
- "Suggested posting time" metrics, based on historical data concerning when people are most likely to click through your links.
- A handy bookmarklet that makes submission of links quick and easy.
It's interesting to note that Stumble's business model is based on publishers paying 5 cents per visitor to have pages inserted into relevant Stumble streams already. Now publishers are being encouraged not only to put their pages into Stumble for free, but are also aggressively prompted to write their own reviews of pages.
What's Not So Super
Other possible critiques of Su.pr include that the framed pages aren't pretty in mobile displays (the frame is clunky and the obscured destination URL is a bummer) and there hasn't been a Su.pr API announced, something that competitors like Bit.ly, Cli.gs and Tr.im all offer.
Stumble says they are using the right kind of redirect to keep search juice on the page that's being linked to, (Update: SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan says this is not true) but we're not sure what Su.pr will do to third party analytics services like Google's. We also question whether the "clicks" are really clicks on Su.pr; just like all URL shorteners have happen, Su.pr links are sometimes "opened" by browser extensions that peak at the full URL without readers actually clicking on them. For example, the service reported 5 clickthroughs on one of our links just 5 seconds after we sent it to Twitter. That's possible but doesn't seem terribly likely. It's a hard problem to solve and one that is much more important for publishers with tech-savvy browser extension using audiences than it is for the vast majority of the world. In tech publishing, it's not uncommon for other URL shortening services to report 1k clicks when internal analytics have only seen 700, for example.
Su.pr encourages publishers throughout its interface to promote their own content, a reality of the web publishing world that brings with it some ethical questions. The company has always flirted with these questions by serving up paid content pages inside Stumble streams without disclosing that they were paid for, something that few other widely-loved technology companies could get away with. Mega corp eBay can't be blamed for any of this as Stumble's founders recently bought the company back (which is awesome).
Perhaps the bulk of Stumble-submissions were already coming from publishers though, not from fairies touching web pages with dew-drop-dripping magic wands as we naively hoped.
We're sure Su.pr will be great for StumbleUpon and for publishers, but we'll have to see how good it is for users. Fortunately some self-correction is baked in to StumbleUpon, viewers simply vote down weak content and other people are thus likely to be served that content as they Stumble through the web. The efficacy of that self-correction may be mitigated by a substantial increase in noisy publisher content pushed into the system out of self-interest though. We'll see!
If you would like to try out Su.pr for yourself, you can use the invite code "suprrww."