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sites, most of its links have been vetted by a large user base of people who go through and weed out some of the bad or outdated stuff.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.
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.… Read more