Why all the interest in Pinterest?

In this guest post, Tony Prysten explains why he thinks the new social platform Pinterest is here to stay

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site on which users can share, curate and upload images. It looks and feels like an online pinboard. Launched in closed beta in 2010, its growth since becoming publicly accessible has been rapid. It hit over 10m unique visitors in January, and it’s becoming a key source of referral traffic on the web.

Funny how something I saw a while back as a neat little way to put together a few moodboards has now exploded and become the next massive thing on the internet.

Initially I did think it was pretty cool. But I was far too quick to write it off as something chicks would use to plan their next handbag purchase. Even when I first signed up, I failed to see the potential. Maybe a few recent ‘next big thing’ burns mixed with a “nothing will be bigger than facebook” blindness had me on the skeptical side.

Pinterest screenshotIf you want to know what it’s all about, this slideshare is a great place to start.

Founder Evan Sharp (a designer) says he created Pinterest because “I was always collecting images on the web in folders on the desktop of my computer, but it wasn’t a very good system for remembering where things came from or who made them. We wanted to create a place where you can go to upload or collect things on the web and simply organize it the way you want to.”

A quick glance at my desktop tells a similar story. I have folders for brand inspiration, web design inspiration, photography, ideas, pure awesomeness, architectural interiors, exteriors, furniture, garden ideas… all of which sit on my well cluttered desktop. So this product was made for me.

But I like my folders of stuff. I go to them when I am going through my design process. I know where stuff is and I really don’t care if people like them or share them. I even care less where they came from or who made them. They are my inspiration, not my content.

So once again, I wrote Pinterest off as a place for a few mood boards and bits and pieces, not a credible place for me to collect all of my inspirational stuff.

Then bang! Pinterest explodes. I have some followers. I slap a few pins down, pick up a few re-pins, but I still don’t really get it. I had yet to realise that you can add a ‘Pin it’ link in your toolbar, stupidly believing I need to copy and past the URL of every image, etc into Pinterest. That ain’t gonna replace my awesome desktop folder drag-and-drop system.

Then a conversation in the studio gets my attention. “Fills a need” and “solves a problem” can be heard. Importantly, heard coming from the mouths of people who are quite obviously not girls planning their next handbag purchase. I’m intrigued now. Especially when it gets described as a visual bookmarking tool that is “easier than keeping a tumblr”.

Pinterest will be different things to different people. For me, it may be a while before it replaces my desktop of cluttered folders with thousands of images going back years. Instead it will immediately be more of a replacement to the forgotten bookmarks where, being a visual guy, I can reference a site by what something looked like.

For producers of content it is yet another way to get more exposure of great (and not so great) stuff. For product industries like fashion, homewares, bikes and so on, it’s a game changer. It’s only natural that people build style boards and then seamlessly follow through with a purchase. Progressive retailers are already pioneering in this space such as Styld.by

Just as Twitter and Facebook introduced a new way of viewing content, I think Pinterest has the potential to redefine the way people may view the web. It could have a significant effect on website structure with people wanting or expecting to see more scrolling grid-based sites that give a viewer a real spread of content rather than being pushed into a particular direction. Giving priority to more ‘pinned’ content will also be a way forward.

So will it stick around? Well, I made the call that Google+ was a load of rubbish. This was based on the fact that I was a) too lazy to migrate all my Facebook pics across and b) couldn’t be bothered using two social networks that were pretty similar, and c) too sentimental to let go of years of Facebook content.

As for Pinterest, it really does ‘fill a need’. It’s new. But more importantly it’s easy. For me it replaces a bookmarking system I wasn’t using. People (not just designers) are pretty visual, so a tool that allows them to organise the things they like and want to reference in a visual way is here to stay.

And of course any internet tool that shows cats doing things will always be a hit.

Tony Prysten is creative director and co-founder of Igloo Digital Pioneers


  1. Ash London
    5 Mar 12
    11:30 am

  2. Good one, T!

  3. Ned
    5 Mar 12
    2:49 pm

  4. “Importantly, heard coming from the mouths of people who are quite obviously not girls planning their next handbag purchase” – so once a man said it was okay you were suddenly able to see the values in Pinterest? This may not be what you intended to say but this is the real take away message I got from your article.

  5. Russell
    5 Mar 12
    5:09 pm

  6. The fate and value of pinterest may be held in the hands of SOPA and other forms of copyright legislation. Pinterest Developers are not responsible for any copyright infringement and, technically, everything posted on Pinterest is a direct infringement of copyright unless you have permission or own the rights to the image. There is a far bigger discussion to be had about Pinterest than whether it suits woman buying handbags.

  7. jean cave
    5 Mar 12
    7:58 pm

  8. I collect images on my own desktop in a file called “Interesting Images”. Not a single picture of a handbag among the many hundreds in there though. I do warm to the collection theme however but I dont find other peoples very Pinteresting.

  9. Lindu Scaria
    5 Mar 12
    9:59 pm

  10. Nice

  11. Chappy
    5 Mar 12
    10:25 pm

  12. Russell makes a good point about infringement of copyright concerns but I’m seeing brands starting to flourish on Pinterest and I wonder whether the protection of their own copyright material is of less concern than the exploitation of it.

    Pinterest offers a really good visual platform for brands to showcase their product ie Australia Tourism.

    I’m still waiting for hot-blooded Aussies blokes to get on there and start showin’ off their wheels. Perfect environment for it. And puppies. And bath mats.

  13. Craig
    6 Mar 12
    7:06 am

  14. I am sure all the designers and manufacturers of hand bags would be gratified to know that you believe their business is trivial and irrelevant. Forget any work from the fashion industry for a few years.

    I have had a long hard look at Pinterest and have some significant issues with the service (and it’s clones’) success potential. Yes scrapbooking is popular, and in a number of respects this is online scrapbooking. Also the organisation and structure features are useful – any visual bookmarking system has advantages in a largely visual society. There’s also some clear benefits in portfolio management for designers.

    However the business model is not yet clear (more advertising? More sale of private information?) and, the kicker for me, the copyright position is atrocious.

    No organisation should use this service without a close consideration of the legal terms and conditions, which essentially state that you MUST have the permission of the copyright owner for each image you pin. If you don’t the service takes no responsibility whatsoever – you are entirely liable for unlawful replication of the images.

    Until this copyright position changes, use of Pinterest in Australia is legally very dangerous. Sure you can attempt to fly under the law, or simply link to material for which you have permission, but this isn’t easy nor a good risk-management approach in many circumstances.

    It is important to check your legal rights and responsibilities when using any online tool and then making an educated decision on whether you use them or not.

  15. Needle Apathy
    6 Mar 12
    7:55 am

  16. Blokes posting cars, trainspotters, bird watchers, home renovations. Hobbies and passions will / are being pinned.

    Another fun site, although I personally am getting site overload!!

  17. Adam
    6 Mar 12
    8:01 am

  18. Nice article Helpful, and great tone. Nice to see someone not claiming to know the next big thing before everyone else.

  19. Dorothy
    6 Mar 12
    10:42 am

  20. I was discussing pinterest with a photographer friend a couple of weeks ago (they love it) and then the original blog post mentioned in this article was published http://www.businessinsider.com.....yer-2012-2 Will be interesting to see what happens from a copyright perspective

  21. ellymc
    6 Mar 12
    12:36 pm

  22. This is a great analysis of Pinterest and I went through a similar process of dismissing it, then coming around. It is just so disappointing that the article is littered with casual misogyny. Surely there are better ways to express irrelevancy that something girls use.


  23. Devil's advocaat
    6 Mar 12
    4:24 pm

  24. Two reasons why Pinterest is getting such good figures:

    1) Everyone’s getting an email that says X is following you. Follow X back. Everyone presses. Then does nothing. Viral sign up with no follow up.

    2) I go to my Facebook Timeline today and look at my Pinterest activity and it tells me that I am following LOADS of people that I have never heard of and have not asked to follow.

    So there are some seriously incorrect and over-hyped figures going around.

    On copyright they’ve already introduced no-pin tags for people to put on their sites if they don’t want their content pinned. They’ll have to go further for sure.

  25. Lach Hall
    6 Mar 12
    10:08 pm

  26. Nice post. Delicious and snip.it almost got it right not quite as good UX but forgot the main pinterest growth ingredient – auto follow and notify your facebook friends

  27. Ben
    9 Mar 12
    7:37 am

  28. Great article, for a bogan male chauvinist hack of a glorified print designer.

  29. Mike Daniels
    9 Mar 12
    8:07 pm

  30. Aside from the occasional whimsical comment, an author that calls google+ rubbish because he can`t be bothered to migrate his pics and because they`re pretty much same can`t honestly be getting paid to provide digital creative. Good on you for making something of yourself despite all the odds.

    Dear Mumbrella,
    If you want to retain your readership, consider restricting submissions to thought leaders.

  31. Doug
    13 Mar 12
    11:29 am

  32. Russell..this whole copyright thing and Pininterest, what an utter non event of an argument this..watermark your photos with a web address, you’ll see a spike of interest heading back to the original copyright owner..works for lots of photographers I know. if you really want to protect the copyright of your images don’t upload them or take extreme measures to make sure nobody can knick them. If you give it away..it comes back..10 fold.

  33. Russell
    13 Mar 12
    11:45 am

  34. I think you are missing the argument doug. That is great if you are posting your own images and using pinterest as yet another blah-blah-social-media-blah-blah-new-fandangle-marketing-tool. But if you are using as the creators of pinterest outline and recommend, which is to pin other peoples work, then you have potential infringement.

    Point number 3 in there usage guidelines: Avoid Self Promotion.

    Learn before you speak.