January 30, 2012
Interested in Pinterest?
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, just as I was getting a handle on moderation with the timesuck that is Facebook, a friend tells me about Pinterest.  If Facebook is a timesuck, then Pinterest is a black hole:  a very pretty, tasteful, affirming black hole.

So, what is Pinterest?  I'm still not sure.  It's official description is an "online bulletin board."  In fact, each user (you have to be invited or get on the waiting list) may have numerous "boards," categorized by topic.  Then, users "pin" images to their boards.  These may be photos by the user, but almost all the time these are photos that are captured elsewhere on the web with the "pin it" app.  The user may comment on the image or just pin it.  When you log on to Pinterest, you are shown all the images that users have pinned on their boards -- the users you are "following" or the ones that Pinterest automatically had you follow when you joined based on your interests.  If you like another user's image, you can repin it to your board.  Generally, you will follow your friends, possibly other users you encounter, and then I sort of get confused.

What are people pinning?  The folks I follow (and me) generally pin recipes, design ideas, fashion ideas, kids' ideas, and crafts.  There are a lot of topics.  I haven't pinned that much.  I'm more of a browser than a pinner.  I still am not quite sure what the point is except to have a pretty website to scroll through every day with photos of things most of my friends (and me) like -- a recipe to turn a watermelon into an open-mouth shark with fruit salad coming out, instructions on how to turn your builder-quality bathroom mirror into a framed thing of beauty, witty poster sayings, crock-pot recipes.  what's not to like?  And, unlike Facebook, there is no pressure to be witty, no requirement to read posts about other people's kids, no fear of running into extreme politics, and no fear of old sweethearts seeing your beach pictures.  If we are putting our shiniest face forward on FB, then on Pinterest you are putting the shiniest face forward that you can conjure up from design/fashion/food images -- this is what my house would like like and the cooking smells it would be filled with if I had unlimited time and money.

So, now to the point.  How does this make money?  So far, Cold Brew Labs, headquartered in Silicon Valley, has raised $27 million in funding based on a $200 million valuation.  Hmmm.  If you look on Pinterest, there is no advertising.  And ads would completely ruin the visuals.  There is some sense out there that Pinterest may be making money based on links back to merchants.  So, if I decide I like a dress I see on a website, and pin that to my board, then someone clicks back to that website, there is some opportunity for revenue there.  There also seem to be commercial folks joining Pinterest.  A radio station we listen to here in Champaign has been mentioning (all the time) that it has joined Pinterest.  The radio station is nonprofit, but surely there are forprofit firms joining Pinterest.  There are a lot of Etsy folks on there.  There's also the possibility that some users who create boards like "New Dresses From X That I Love" are really X employees.  Then the "ads" would be hard to distinguish from "user pins," wouldn't distract from the visual flow and would generate revenue.  But this is guessing.

I have two problems with Pinterest.  First, I can't really figure out how to use the site.  I can't find my own friends that I know are on it.  (Unlike FB, the "find friends" search engine can't find squat.)   More importantly, I'm worried it has copyright problems.  People are pinning anything they want from anywhere they want.  If the pin comes directly from the original image on the web, then under the image, the link appears, but that's it.  But who knows what images are going up without any sort of attribution.  Here are the Terms and here is the Copyright Policy.  Basically, users promise not to violate copyright when they pin stuff up there, and Cold Brew Labs promises to consider, in its discretion, any complaints that users have violated copyright.

Besides that, I did make the slow-cooker basalmic pork tenderloin, and it was good.

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