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Surf smarter, not harder

Surf smarter, not harder

Is your Web surfing behavior stuck, downtrodden, in a rut? You say you want new Web sites in your life but don't know where to find them? Then you want to use a social bookmarking site. Me, I'm a huge fan of Digg [column], but there's a service officially launching on Tuesday (it's been in beta for months) that should help anybody find sites of interest: StumbleUpon [download].

StumbleUpon is a toolbar extension for Firefox. Its primary button, labeled "Stumble!" takes you to a site you've probably not been to before, in any of the categories you tell the service you're interested in. If you like the new site, you press a thumbs-up button. If you don't, thumbs-down. Every time you vote, the system recalibrates its site selections for you using social filtering; it attempts to find sites for you that it thinks you'll like because other users with similar preferences also like them. So far I haven't stumbled upon anything I couldn't live without, but it's been an entertaining journey.

The site is also a social network, with Web site preferences acting as the major connective tissue. The system recommends friends with similar browsing preferences; it can be enlightening to see the sites they've voted for. I suppose you could also use it to find dates--at least when you first met you'd be able to talk about sites you both like.

If you have time on your hands, StumbleUpon is worth a try.