The Internet is an absolute wonder. I actually don’t know how we lived without it for so many years. But when you head online and see the World Wide Web open up in front of your eyes it’s often difficult to know where to head next. You’ll have your personal favorites or bookmarks (depending on which browser you use) but what about new sites you have never visited before?
The possibilities are almost endless, but thankfully there are solutions to the problem. Skrittle is one such solution, being a new way of helping Internet users find similar sites to those they already know and love. Or even mildly like, for that matter. It’s very new and is far from perfect, but it does have stacks of potential.
The Web – A Vast Expanse Of Sites Waiting To Be Discovered
The Web is a vast collection of sites and pages that without certain tools would be impossible to successfully navigate. Search engines are the most obvious tool we have at our disposal – imagine life without Google – but they’re only usable if you already have a topic in mind. What happens when you don’t know where you want to go but just know you don’t want to be staring at a blank screen for hours on end?
On these occasions we need others to recommend websites they think we should visit. MakeUseOf has proffered its selection of the best websites around. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Reddit offer alternatives. Or you can ask your friends and family on social networking sites. And then there is StumbleUpon. Skrittle takes elements from all of these options and throws them together. The result is… interesting.
Skrittle describes itself as “Pandora for Websites.” Pandora, for the uninitiated, is an online radio station that serves up songs based on the music you like and dislike (but is currently geo-locked to the US only). Skrittle endeavors to serve up websites based on those you like and dislike in a similar fashion, although at this early stage it’s a little more hit and miss than Pandora has ever been.
To use Skrittle all you need to do is add the bookmarklet to your browser. Once that has been successfully done, you just click on it when you’re on a website you’d like to find similar sites to. I, of course, started with MakeUseOf, and the results of the search can be seen in the screenshot below.
Balls, Lots Of Balls
As I’m sure you have already noticed by now, Skrittle features balls, lots of balls. These contain the names of the sites it recommends you visit. When you hit the Skrittle bookmarklet they’ll fall from the sky and then settle in a random pattern. Whether by design or accident this ensures no link is favored over another.
As well as being able to click one of the balls, which will then take you to the site featured on it, you can manipulate the balls in whatever way you see fit. It’s a fun-for-five-minutes novelty but nothing more. After clicking a link and visiting a recommended site you can then give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down depending on how well you think it suited your needs. This is how Skrittle grows and evolves, which somewhat puts the onus on the end user.
Promoted & Sponsored
The majority of sites and services on the Web launch with the product in mind and then try to figure out how to actually make money from it in the future. Not so with Skrittle, which has emerged from beta already monetized, This is a rather bold move which could hinder its mainstream appeal.
How Skrittle makes money is by offering websites the chance to be promoted or to be a sponsor. Promoted sites get a ball permanently shown regardless of their proximity to the topic, as can be seen above, while sponsors have their logo etched into the background of the page, as can be seen below.
What saves this from being a really bad idea is that promoted sites and sponsors are clearly labeled as such. This should prevent users from complaining too heavily that their viewing habits as suggested by Skrittle are being adversely influenced by advertising money.
I believe Skrittle has great potential. It works fine as it is but just a little more tightening up across the board will turn it from a nice diversion into a killer idea. The one thing it desperately needs right now is more users influencing which sites are recommended. StumbleUpon could do with some competition, and Skrittle is in a great position to offer just that.
By all means try Skrittle out, either by viewing the example page or installing the bookmarklet and seeing what results it throws up in response to your favorite websites. The more people who use Skrittle the better it will become, hopefully serving up better recommendations as time goes on. Let us know what you think of Skrittle in the comments section below.
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