Photo: Mark Blevis
By now you’ve surely heard of Pinterest.But you might not know what it is, where it came from, or why it is getting so much attention.
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest social media craze.
What the heck is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a digital bulletin board for cool and interesting things.
Before Pinterest, people went through magazines, clipped out their favourite images, and pasted them in scrap books or push-pinned them to cork boards.
Pinterest is a digital form of that. It’s is a way to capture and save images from all over the Internet on one big personal page.
If, for example, you stumble across a pair of great shoes on Gilt Groupe, you no longer have to bookmark the link. Instead you pin it on Pinterest with the click of a button and it’s saved for you there.
Where did Pinterest come from?
Pinterest was conceived on Thanksgiving day, 2009. Ben Silbermann, a Yale graduate and former Googler, was building a site with a few friends. His now-wife was watching TV and came up with the name “Pinterest.”
In March 2010 it launched in private beta.
Pinterest’s first year was a slow. Women gradually stumbled across it; they discovered recipes and images of beautiful decor that could be reposted and shared. They began to tell their friends.
The site continued to grow via word of mouth for the next year.
By July 2011, Pinterest finally reached it’s 1 millionth unique visitor (see chart).
Why does anyone care about Pinterest?
Today Pinterest has about 12 million unique visitors — that means 11 million new people have visited the site in 7 months.Some have called Pinterest the fastest growing site ever. But it’s really the second fastest growing site, next to Formspring, which hit 10 million users just two months after launch.
By comparison, it took Facebook 10 months to get 1 million registered users.
Growth like Pinterest’s gets a lot of people excited. Press and venture capitalists always like to be ahead of the curve and Pinterest looks like the next big social media/web thing. There’s Twitter for sharing messages, Facebook for finding friends, and now Pinterest for sharing photos.
eCommerce sites are excited by Pinterest too. They’ve found Pinterest drives more traffic to their sites than YouTube, LinkedIn and Google +.
How do I use Pinterest?
While you can peruse Pinterest without joining the site, if you want to save and share your own images you’ll have to sign up.
To sign up, you have to request an invite. Once Pinterest grants you access, it encourages you to sign up via Twitter or Facebook. Then it asks you to choose categories you’re interested in, like photography, and it will recommend people for you to follow.
For more about the sign up process and how it works, click here.
Once you’re signed up, you can either upload images to your pinboard, repin someone else’s images, or add Pinterest to your browser bar and pin a picture from another site.
For more on how to use Pinterest, click here.
Is Pinterest here to stay?
It’s really too soon to say — the site is only two years old. But 11 million users is nothing to gawk at and, even though Pinterest currently doesn’t generate much revenue, it could be here for the long haul.
First, Pinterest gets a ton of traffic. It has more than 1 billion monthly pageviews and high user engagement. With a few advertisements or an eCommerce arm, it could easily start making money.
Even if Pinterest doesn’t start generating revenue soon, it has enough money from investors to hang around for a long time. It’s a lean staff (less than 20 people last we checked) and it has raised $37 million.
Pinterest may run into legal trouble though. Some think it violates copyright laws because its users post photos without asking permission from the owners.
Pinterest credits and links to the original source of its photos, but that doesn’t make it legal to host the content. Thumbnails are ok to post under the fair use doctrine, but Pinterest often lifts the entire, full-size image.
We spoke to a lawyer who told us, “Pinterest could have some legitimate arguments in favour of itself: Claiming it’s a search tool, saying it drives traffic elsewhere, arguing that the way it shows pictures is transformative. But the big problem is that it grabs entire copyrighted works to re-post. This could be hard to overcome, especially as Pinterest starts growing and becomes more of a destination for a greater audience.”