Yesterday eBay (EBAY) announced that it was selling its StumbleUpon subsidiary to the original Founders for an undisclosed price.
When I first found StumbleUpon I became an immediate fan and downloaded the Stumble toolbar in 2006. I spent the next couple of years or so Stumbling throughout the nether recesses of the Internet. For me, StumbleUpon became my personalized art gallery and curiosity museum with millions of other Stumblers acting as curator. It was a lot of fun, bordering on addicting.
As a Canadian start-up in the social networking space, StumbleUpon began to attract interest from Investment Bankers sniffing out IPO fees by the end of 2006. It came as a moderate surprise that eBay (EBAY) offered $75 million to buy the Company outright in 2007.
From the beginning, the acquisition appeared to make little sense. There was not much alignment between Stumblers and eBay buyers and the StumbleUpon toolbar as recommendation engine seemed far too random to be leveraged commercially by Power Sellers. Maybe with a few tweaks, eBay management envisioned a social competitor to Google (GOOG). Whatever the monetization strategies forward were for eBay, it was background noise as I continued to Stumble, installing the toolbar on nearly every computer that I used regularly.
And then it happened. One fateful evening during the spring of 2008 I Stumbled and fell into a vicious malware trap that became an expensive nightmare which put my home network out of commission for nearly two weeks and cost several hundred dollars in real money to clean up the mess. The attack was clearly designed for StumbleUpon. As soon as the Stumble button was clicked, the browser was highjacked and the malware was loaded. The attacker had gamed the system so that the malware became a recommended site. How many other Stumblers were attacked?
I was furious that StumbleUpon, or eBay for that matter, would allow itself to be a security threat. I attempted to contact customer support at both eBay and StumbleUpon with no luck. I left lengthy emails explaining the exact conditions by which I was attacked. No response. I requested information regarding StumbleUpon security policy. Silence.
As my malware event unfolded I stopped Stumbling. And then I uninstalled the trail of Stumble toolbars that I left on unsuspecting computers. To me the Stumble toolbar was a gateway to malware. A security threat. Gone.
In my mind, eBay has spent a lot of capital buying technology that carries intrinsic security risk. The security risks associated with Skype are well known to the point where many in the VoIP telephony segment deride Skype as the "terrorist telephone network" due to its inherent lack of traceability. Paypal? I have an account that I do not use any more because I associate eBay with security risk. Paypal may be very safe, but due to my history with eBay I am not interested in risking my funds with any of its subsidiaries.
Maybe a response to my inquiries from eBay or from the StumbleUpon subsidiary would have eased my concerns about security and possibly saved me as a client. But nothing happened.
With Garrett Camp and his team now buying back StumbleUpon (likely at a fraction of its original purchase price), maybe the Company can regain its mojo as it unshackles from eBay. Maybe somebody there will finally call me back and ensure me that the Stumble button is no longer a security threat. In the meantime, I remain a retired Stumbler.