Before Facebook and Twitter. Before Reddit and Imgur. Before a million other apps and companies competed for space on my homescreen and a slice of my limited attention span, there was StumbleUpon. It was a simple browser extension for a simpler time, seamlessly guiding me from one piece of viral content to another with no extra gimmicks or pesky ads.
Once upon a time I spent countless hours clicking that Stumble button on my laptop browser late into the night. Now, StumbleUpon is trying to reclaim my attention (and yours) with a redesigned Android app and a slew of new features. After spending some time with a beta version, I think the new app might just do the trick.
This isn't the company's first relaunch in recent memory, but StumbleUpon is hoping this one will stick. "A couple of failed redesigns didn't turn out as hoped," mobile product manager Amol Sogal told me recently. "We weathered the storm. It's been tough but we're taking this leap forward."
StumbleUpon 4.0 is a total shift of priorities for the company as it focuses more on mobile and less on your desktop browser. There's a new user experience and a redesign to match, which takes advantage of StumbleUpon's sizable user base. The new app adds user-generated lists along with an Activity Center that introduces a stream of social content like notifications and shared posts.
Using the new StumbleUpon is easy and intuitive, but more importantly it's fun. As much as I enjoyed stumbling from my laptop browser back in highschool, the new experience makes even more sense on a smaller screen. Each piece of content, or Stumble as the app calls them, is presented as a picture and a headline packed into a small colorful square. Wait a second and the full article will load while the square melts away. Or, if you're not interested, just swipe straight to the next Stumble.
It's also very easy to add interests. I was worried I'd have to log-in online to pick from different categories. Instead, the app lets you pick interests from a full list or from a featured tab with Recommended, Trending and New options. The only issue I had using StumbleUpon 4.0 was that new posts sometimes took too long to load even over Wi-Fi, though hopefully that's an issue with the beta app I've been testing and not the final version launching today.
For now, StumbleUpon 4.0 is only available on Android, though the company says an even bigger update is coming to iOS later this year. You'll also be stumbling on Android Wear, Android TV and Chromecast in the not-too-distant future, though we're curious to see how the app adapts to different platforms and screen sizes.
If you're already using StumbleUpon for Android, today's update should show up soon, and if you haven't stumbled in years it may be worth giving the service another chance. It only takes a few minutes, though I won't blame you if you end up stumbling for hours.