Nine tools that let you randomly browse the Web

Want to browse the Web at random? We've got a small selection of tools that let you do it with speed and true unknowing.

Digg's release of a pervasive, software-free toolbar last week brought with it a sweet little surprise: the capability to jump to a random site or story that was recommended by other Digg users. For a site that's run entirely by its community, this puts the power of browsing in the hands of an algorithm that does the deciding for you. Digg wasn't the first site to do this, though. So what are some other tools that let you randomly explore the Web? I've put together a few of my favorites below.


StumbleUpon: Calling StumbleUpon just a random site generator may not be fair. While it does a great job of taking you to random sites, most of its links have been vetted by a large user base of people who go through and weed out some of the bad or outdated stuff. It's also got a built-in recommendation engine that will tune its "stumbles" to your tastes as you give sites a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

In addition to being able to use the site with a special toolbar that remains no matter what site you're on, you can get a similar experience right from StumbleUpon's site, which brings with it a software-free toolbar. You can also access StumbleUpon for sites, and video on various gaming consoles, including the Nintendo Wii, for which StumbleUpon coded a special version of the site to work with the Wii's remote and your living room's TV set.


Mangle: Next to StumbleUpon, Mangle is one of the oldest sites on this list, having launched in early 2002. While it's not much to look at, it does a good job of letting you randomly hop to big sites, personal pages, images, and even maps. You can access all these verticals either through bookmarks, or by installing Mangle's browser toolbar, which also throws in the option to show random sites that match up with keywords you've entered. Worth noting, however, is that the toolbar hasn't been updated in a while, so it won't work with the latest version of Firefox.


Delicious Randomizer: Delicious may be all about organization (which some people take to an obsessive compulsive level), but it's also got a wild side. It has a random links feature that will take you to a link that's either recently been created or bookmarked by another Delicious user. You can click on it again and again, and it will give you random results based on the pulse of the site. To do it, just save this link to your bookmarks toolbar or bookmarks list.


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DiggBar: Digg's software-free toolbar has a large, orange random button, which as you might guess, takes you to a random page. Where Digg differs from some of the other services on this list though, is that all stories or sites it takes you to have been featured on the front page of Digg.com. This may keep you from finding some real undiscovered gems, but for the casual user you at least know you're being taken to something worthy of a quick look.


Rolling the dice takes you to a new site based on topical sites you've visited recently. CNET

Google Toolbar: Users with the Google Toolbar installed can add on a special random page button that goes to a random site recommended by Google based on your past browsing history. It looks at what you've been searching for, and pulls up 50 related links, which it cycles through at random whenever you click the button. You can also hop to one of its suggestions by choosing from a drop-down menu, although the first option is way more fun.

If you don't feel like giving Google more of your browser than it already has, you can accomplish the same thing with this Firefox add-on, which also feeds from the same list.


Minthink: Minthink generates a random site to go to with the press of a button. What's nice about this one compared to some of the rest is that if you're accessing it from its standard site, you can preview what the URL is before you click on it. However, if you're a Firefox user and feeling bold, there's an extension, and a script for Ubiquity that will take you directly to the site without you knowing what it is first.

That Random Website: This one may not be well and truly random since it's working off a database, but the folks behind it were smart enough to see the success of the Million Dollar Homepage and go for something similar by selling off slots at $1 a pop (which goes to charity). Every time you visit it or hit the refresh button in the browser it'll take you somewhere new, along with the option to hop back to That Random Website's homepage which makes it feel like a Web ring of yore.

Random Website: (not to be confused with That Random Website) lets you click on a giant face to be hurtled towards a new site. You can also add any of your own URLs to its database, which will go out to other users after being approved by its creators. There's no fancy toolbar, but you can save its bookmark, which will open up a random site in a new browser tab.

Web-O-Random is another service on that list that isn't the prettiest, but it makes up for it with neat AJAX tricks. It will load up random pages in a frame on the bottom of the page with slick fades. It also has a carousel of alternate links if you want to control your destiny a bit more. Technology demo aside, I ran into some problems with it spitting out pages that either weren't alive anymore, or weren't in English, which may not be a problem if you've got Google Translate handy.

Any we missed? Leave them in the comments.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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