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Summary:

Social discovery platform StumbleUpon says it’s cutting back on the ability of users to blog and customize their profiles on the site. That includes shutting down groups, photo blogging, and the ability to select themes, which are all going away as of Oct. 24.

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StumbleUpon is sure to have some pretty disappointed users come the end of next month thanks to its decision to shut down some features of the service. The company says it’s shutting down groups, photo and HTML blogging, and the ability to select themes, all of which are going away as of Oct. 24. StumbleUpon says the decision is about being honest about what it’s good at (social discovery and recommendations) and away from what it’s not (trying to be Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace).

So what’s going to change exactly? The ability of StumbleUpon users to customize reviews of the stuff they find on the site. That means no adding HTML or photos to them anymore. StumbleUpon will still let users write reviews and comment, but they’ll be plain text only from now on. Previous reviews that have been customized in any way will live on, but they’ll be converted to plain text reviews, according to the site’s FAQ. Users also will no longer have the ability to add themes or a background image to their profiles on the site. Soon they’ll all look the same: white background with black lettering only.

Some of these are features that are widely used (photo blogging) while others are less popular (groups, themes) among the site’s 15 million users. Over the years, the service added those features before there was Tumblr or Twitter, or a large chunk of the world was on Facebook. Now StumbleUpon says it realizes its team doesn’t have the time or resources to devote to features that they willingly admit other services do a lot better.

“Other platforms frankly do a really good job of [customization and self-expression] and that’s what they’re all about. While certain [StumbleUpon users] may not want to go, other services do offer a better experience of that,” said Marc Leibowitz, Stumble Upon’s vice president of marketing and business development, in an interview Thursday. Essentially, they want their users to come for the social discovery, and go elsewhere for other stuff. Leibowitz said that they know based on how people share StumbleUpon URLs that many of their users are already using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and others for blogging anyway.

Attempting to put the changes in perspective, he noted how different the social web is today versus when his service got its start:

It’s amazing how StumbleUpon started in a day and age when the searching we take advantage of now didn’t exist. Google was just getting started. There are things and microblogging services that hadn’t even been conceptualized when StumbleUpon was already a few years old. The things we built out of necessity because they didn’t exist elsewhere are no longer warranted.

As reasonable as it sounds, it can’t come as very welcome news for users who’ve spent tons of time customizing their StumbleUpon review sites with HTML, or those that are just used to using StumbleUpon a certain way. But the company says it’s “exploring possible export options” for those who want to save their PhotoBlog before it disappears from StumbleUpon’s servers next month.

“We’re talking about a small, albeit passionate, group of users that were using these bells and whistles…it was costing us time to maintain these things that would be better applied to improving the discovery experience,” Leibowitz said. “We regret doing anything that disappoints our users, but this is being done to simplify the service and make it easier to use for a broader audience.”

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user Frank Gruber

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  1. I hope they crash and burn. They are destroying SU. I have known couples who have gotten married after meeting on SU. Other sites can’t compete with what it was. They are idiots.

    1. I hope they Crash and Burn Also…who the hell wants a black and white Page!!!!!

  2. nothing to it. su is just getting rid of all activities that do not produce cash flow. the social networking aspect and the personal expressions do produce no cash flow. hard times. is su’s stock traded publicly? what exchange?

    1. but the work that constitutes their marketed product is done by the user-base, an unpaid lot. this latest in a series of such manouevers leaves nothing to hold the users at stumbleupon. strange business decision.

  3. Fine. Hope your broader audience sees some good in this that I certainly never will. Surely there is a way they can turn some of what they are abandoning over to the open source community. Then they can watch and maybe learn something. This is incredibly sad.

  4. So much for loyalty. Eh – I was only using them for personal gain anyway. Using them to make friends; using them to discuss things at an intellectual level; using them in a way that pushed my creativity further than ever. But yeah, it was awfully one-sided.

  5. I find it ironic that I have the ability to comment here only because I created a WordPress account to (hopefully) export my SU blog.

    By the way, it’s hard to take your article seriously when you cite ONE stumbler. One who’s not particularly representative of the general community. You might have had more of a chance to get your article entered into the great StumbleTron had you written something that appealed to the many thousands of disaffected users.
    Recent experience has shown me that well-written comment about the current adverse changes at SU is capable of generating an avalanche of page hits. Too bad you didn’t do more widespread research.

    I’ve been on SU longer than most; seven years this month. I’ve had more fun, learned more and been more engaged than I ever thought possible…but I’ve been aware for some time that SU were withdrawing the blogging facilities.
    It’s true that SU’s blogger base is incensed at the removal (and virtual destruction) of the work they’ve crafted over many years. But they’re a resilient lot (they’ve learned to be, after years of neglect from SU ) and they’re emerging on other blogging platforms like tumblr, posterous – and a great alternative to SU – called Categorian.
    These sites will all benefit from the influx of some experienced and discerning bloggers.
    SU’s loss will be more profound than just losing the non-income producing ‘bloggers’.
    They’re losing their ‘stumble’ site discoverers and curators. They’re losing their reviewers. They’re losing their beta testers and the people who built their database.
    SU will become the latest bookmarking site.

    *yawns*

  6. this is insane i don’t know why they are closing photo blogs

  7. It’s all about the money.

    They have taken a museum and turned it into a warehouse.
    I read something the other day about their increasing their traffic. The blip traffic. The drive through traffic. To them it counts as much as someone who spent an hour a day because it is just one number. From gourmet restaurant to drive through schlock.

    But that’s what the 1% do these days.

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