StumbleUpon, the discovery engine that enables its users to "Stumble" onto personalized web content, unveiled a major redesign Monday, introducing a slew of upgrades that include a streamlined interface, recommendation improvements, and the addition of brand channels.
But what's really driving the overhaul isn't some product-cycle deadline—it's StumbleUpon's mobile growth, which has rocketed 800% in the last year, becoming core to the company and its future business potential.
"We're doing a complete relaunch of the site, and a lot of it is inspired by our mobile experience," says CEO Garrett Camp. "It's basically because of our mobile traction. That streamlined experience, which is simpler and without complexity, has really resonated with users. We wanted to take what we learned from mobile and bring that to the web."
Like Reddit and Digg, StumbleUpon helps users discover new content, but with a slight twist: a "Stumble" button adds a bit of random serendipity into the equation, allowing users to leap to unknown content with one click. Roughly 20 million users press that Stumble button more than a billion times a month. Now, mobile is fast catching up: In November, StumbleUpon reached about 200 million Stumbles on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.
"Mobile is going to be big [for us]," Camp says. "Looking at our current growth rate, I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now, 40% to 50% of our usage is on mobile."
Such rapid growth led to the site's revamp—it also gives some insight into the advertising potential for StumbleUpon. Part of the site upgrades include the addition of brand channels, designed to gives users more control over the content in their StumbleUpon stream. Before, users could specify a general topic to Stumble—celebrities, technology, fitness, parenting, and so on—but couldn't take a deeper dive. Now users can customize their experience based on specific brands. "You can follow The History Channel instead of just history, or Funny or Die instead of just humor," Camp says.
More than 250 brand partners from Audi to ESPN signed on for the launch, and the company has hundreds more partnerships in the works. StumbleUpon does not charge for the privilege of having a channel—the company hopes it will drive more user engagement and attract more advertising partners.
"I think this will spread awareness," Camp says. "A lot of people know about StumbleUpon, but not a lot of people know that we have a really interesting ad platform. We think by working with a lot larger number of brands and websites, that it will eventually lead to more ad clients."
With exponential mobile growth and users that spend an average of seven hours a month surfing the site, it's a surprise Camp and company would even find that necessary.