Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann summarised the company as a "catalog of ideas," rather than as a social network, that inspires users to "go out and do that thing."
Pinterest is a free website that requires registration to use. Users can upload, save, sort, and manage images—known as pins—and additional media content (e.g., videos) through collections known as pinboards. Pinterest acts as a personalised media platform. Users can browse the content of others in their feed. Users can then save individual pins to one of their own boards using the "Pin It" button, with Pinboards typically organised by a central topic or theme. Users can personalise their experience with Pinterest by pinning items, creating boards, and interacting with additional members. The end result is that the "pin feed" of each user displays unique, personalised results.
Content can additionally be found outside of Pinterest and similarly uploaded to a board via the "Pin It" button, which can be downloaded to the bookmark bar on a web browser, or be implemented by a webmaster directly on the website. They additionally have the option of sending a pin to additional Pinterest users and email accounts through the "Send" button. Some websites include red and white "pin it" buttons on items, which allow Pinterest users to pin them directly.
Initially, there were several ways to register a new Pinterest account. Potential users could either receive an invitation from an already registered friend, or they could request an invitation directly from the Pinterest website that could take a few time to receive. An account can additionally be created and accessed by linking Pinterest to a Facebook or Twitter profile. When a user re-posts or re-pins an image to their own board, they have the option of notifying their Facebook and Twitter followers; this feature can be managed on the settings page.
On the main Pinterest page, a "pin feed" appears, displaying the chronological activity from the Pinterest boards that a user follows.
A "board" is where the user's pins are located. Users can have several boards for various items such as quotes, travel or, most popularly, weddings. A "pin" is an image that has either been uploaded or linked from a website. Once users create boards and add pins, additional users can now repin, meaning they can pin one user's image to their board as well. Once the user has set up their account and boards, they can browse, comment, and like additional pins. Pinterest has additionally added the option of making boards "secret" so that the user can pin to and view boards that only the user can see when logged into their own account.
Pinterest doesn't generate its own content; rather, it draws from a large number of resources around the web and compiles them in one convenient location for users.
Pinterest additionally allows businesses to create pages aimed at promoting their companies online. Such pages can serve as a "virtual storefront". In one case study of a fashion website, users visiting from Pinterest spent $180 compared to $85 spent from users coming from Facebook. These users spent less time on the company's website, choosing instead to browse from the company's pinboard. Further brand studies have continued to show Pinterest is more effective at driving sales than additional forms of social media. In 2013, Pinterest introduced a new tool called 'Rich Pins', to enhance the customer experience when browsing through pins made by companies. Business pages can include various data, topics and information such as prices of products, ratings of movies or ingredients for recipes.
Like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest now lets marketers access the data collected on its users. Technology providers including Salesforce.com, Hootsuite, Spredfast, Percolate, Piqora, Curalate, and Tailwind are presently the only companies granted access to the data. By granting access to users' data, Pinterest lets marketers investigate how people respond to products. If a product has a high number of repins, this generally tells the producer of the product that it is well liked by a large number of members of the Pinterest community. Now that Pinterest lets marketers access the data, companies can view user comments on the product to learn how people like or dislike it. A 2013 study on Pinterest practises found that "repinning" was the most popular action by users, followed by likes, and lastly, commenting. According to Salesforce.com, Pinterest has become a key part of corporate digital marketing strategies. Before 2013, Pinterest only accounted for about 2 percent of global social-mediated sales, however it has recently substantially increased to about 23 percent. People use social media sites like Pinterest to direct or guide their choices in products. Notwithstanding at this time, the data collected from Pinterest is predominantly from female users. A recent study found that eighty percent of Pinterest users are women. Many businesses use Pinterest Analytics to investigate whether the time spent on the social networking site is actually producing results or not. Through the access of Pinterest Analytics, companies receive insight to data via API, which makes it easier for the businesses using this method to closely engage with the consumer population on Pinterest. Pinterest Analytics is much like Google Analytics. It is a created service that generates comprehensive statistics on a specific website's traffic, commonly used by marketers. Pins, pinners, repins, and repinners are a few aspects of user data that Pinterest Analytics provides. It additionally collects data that depicts the percentage of change within a specific time, to determine if a product is more popular on a specific day throughout the week, or slowly fitting unpopular. This data helps marketing agencies alter their strategies to gain more popularity, often changing the visual content to appeal to the Pinterest community. The "Most Clicked" tab in Pinterest Analytics demonstrates products that are more likely to sell. According to a study by Converto, in April 2012, Pinterest drove more social media-originated e-commerce sales than Facebook or Twitter. Companies additionally can add their own ideas features to explore how consumers respond to a product, like the Pinterest Trends product, Piqora. Piquora is a visual analytics and marketing provider for specifically visual social networking sites including Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. Marketers use Piqora's Pinterest Trends to analyse a brand's performance against competitors on Pinterest.
Globally, the site is most popular with women. In 2012, a report found that 83 percent of the global users were women. Britain, however, is an exception. As of March 2012, 56 percent of the users were male and their age profile was different too, being about 10 years younger than in the U.S., where the predominant age range was typically 35-44. In terms of age distribution, the Pinterest demographic closely resembles the U.S. Internet population.
For January 2012, comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique U.S. visitors, making it the fastest site ever to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark. comScore recorded a unique users moving average growth of 85 percent from mid-January to mid-February and a seventeen percent growth from mid-February to mid-March.
Much of the service's early user base consisted of infrequent contributors. The site's user growth, which slowed in March 2012, could pick up as the site's user base solidifies around dedicated users according to a comScore representative. In August 2012, Pinterest overtook competing micro-blogging site Tumblr for the first time in terms of unique monthly visitors, clocking in at just under 25 million.
In February 2013, Reuters and ComScore stated that Pinterest had 48.7 million users globally. A study released in July 2013 by French social media agency Semiocast revealed the website had 70 million users worldwide.
In 2014, Pinterest generated its first revenue, when it begins charging advertisers to promote their wares to the site's millions of hobbyists, holiday planners, and do-it-yourselfers. Ads on the site could generate as much as $500 million in 2016, estimates Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Pinterest was first conceptualised in December 2009 by cofounders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra. The first prototype was launched in March 2010 and made available to a small group of colleagues and family members. Since its inception, it has developed into a well-funded site financially supported by a group of successful entrepreneurs and investors including FirstMark Capital, Jack Abraham (Milo), Michael Birch (Bebo), Scott Belsky (Behance), Shana Fisher (Highline Venture Partners), Ron Conway (SV Angel), Kevin Hartz (EventBrite), Jeremy Stoppelman (Yelp), Hank Vigil, Fritz Lanman, and Brian S. Cohen.
Although the founders of Pinterest haven't cited any specific influences, a number of companies preceded Pinterest in the development of visual bookmarking, including Yelp co-founder David Galbraith's invention of Wists in 2005, and later sites such as ThisNext and Stylehive.
In early 2011, the company secured a $10 million USD Series A financing led by Jeremy Levine and Sarah Tavel of Bessemer Venture Partners. In October 2011, after an introduction from Kevin Hartz and Jeremy Stoppelman, the company secured $27 million USD in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, which valued the company at $200 million USD.
Retail companies use Pinterest for advertising and style trending. Pinterest intends the web design to support "style conscious retailers," where customers can visualise products within a consumer context. Companies like The Gap, Chobani, Nordstrom, and West Elm use Pinterest to gather online referrals that link users with similar interests to a company. The Gap has arguably taken the biggest initiative in their use of Pinterest, employing their own themed pinboards such as "" and "Everybody in Gap."
Pinterest played a role in the run-up to the 2012 US presidential election. The wives of both candidates created accounts. Ann Romney debuted her Pinterest account in March and First Lady Michelle Obama announced hers in June.
In May 2012, Pinterest was valued at $1.5 billion. In February 2013, it was valued at $2.5 billion. In October 2013, it was valued at $3.8 billion. In May 2014, it was valued at $5 billion. In June 2015, it was valued at $11 billion. In May 2015, Fortune Magazine listed Pinterest in the eighth position on its Unicorn List, which ranks startups that have a valuation exceeding $1 billion.
In June 2015, Pinterest added the "Buy" button to its mobile app.
Pinterest has a notification system that copyright holders can use to request that content be removed from the site. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor status of Pinterest has been questioned given that it actively promotes its users to copy to Pinterest, for their perpetual use, any image on the Internet. Pinterest users can't claim safe harbour status and as such are exposed to possible legal action for pinning copyrighted material. Because Pinterest allows user to transfer information, intellectual property rights come to play. Pinterest's system is in line with Nicolas de Condorcet's view that the public’s interest in knowledge trumps the author’s property rights.
A "nopin" HTML meta tag was released by Pinterest on 20 February 2012 to allow websites to opt out of their images being pinned. On 24 February 2012, Flickr implemented the code to allow users to opt out their photos.
Pinterest released a statement in March 2012 saying it believed it was protected by the DMCA's safe harbour provisions.
In early May 2012, the site added automatic attribution of authors on images originating from Flickr, Behance, YouTube and Vimeo. Automatic attribution was additionally added for Pins from sites mirroring content on Flickr. At the same time Flickr added a Pin shortcut to its share option menu to users who haven't opted out of sharing their images.
Pinterest allows users to save images and categorise them on different boards. They can follow additional users' boards if they have similar tastes. The evolution of Pinterest is based on the shared interest of its users and relies on its members to produce the content. The most popular categories, as of March 2012, were home, arts and crafts, style/fashion, and food.
Silbermann said he personally wrote to the site's first 5,000 users offering his personal phone number and even meeting with a few of its users.
Nine months after the launch the website had 10,000 users. Silbermann and a few programmers operated the site out of a small flat until the summer of 2011.
Early in 2010, the company's investors and co-founder Ben Silbermann tried to encourage a New York-based magazine publishing company to buy Pinterest but the publisher declined to meet with the founders.
The launch of an iPhone app in early March 2011, brought in a more than expected number of downloads.
On 16 August 2011, Time magazine listed Pinterest in its "50 Best Websites of 2011" article.
The Pinterest app for iPhone was last updated in March 2013, and the iPad app was launched August 2011. Pinterest Mobile, launched September 2011, is a version of the website for non-iPhone users.
In December 2011, the site became one of the top 10 largest social network services, according to Hitwise data, with 11 million total visits per week. The next month, it drove more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+. The same month, the company was named the best new startup of 2011 by TechCrunch. Noted entrepreneurs and investors include: Jack Abraham, Michael Birch, Scott Belsky, Brian Cohen, Shana Fisher, Ron Conway, FirstMark Capital, Kevin Hartz, Jeremy Stoppelman, Hank Vigil, and Fritz Lanman.
In January 2012, comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark. Pinterest's wide reach helped it to achieve an average of 11 million visits each week in December 2011. Most of the site's users are female.
At the South By Southwest Interactive conference in March 2012, Silbermann announced revamped profile pages were being developed and would be implemented soon.
On 23 March 2012, Pinterest unveiled updated terms of service that eliminated the policy that gave it the right to sell its users' content. The terms would go into effect April 6.
On 17 May 2012, Japanese electronic commerce company Rakuten announced it was leading a $100 million investment in Pinterest, alongside investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, based on a valuation of $1.5 billion.
On September 20, 2012 Pinterest announced the hiring of its new head of engineering, Jon Jenkins. Jenkins came from Amazon, where he spent eight years as an engineering lead and was additionally a director of develop tools, platform analysis and website platform.
In October 2012, Pinterest announced a new feature that would allow users to report others for negative and offensive activity or block additional users if they don't want to view their content. Pinterest said they want to keep their community "positive and respectful." Also in October, Pinterest launched business accounts allowing businesses to either convert their existing personal accounts into business accounts, or start from scratch.
In March 2013, Pinterest acquired Livestar. Terms weren't disclosed.
In October 2013, Pinterest acquired Hackermeter. The company’s co-founders, Lucas Baker and Frost Li, joined Pinterest as engineers.
In October 2013, Pinterest won a $225 million round of equity funding that valued the website at $3.8 billion.
In April 2015, Pinterest acquired team from Hike Labs, which had been developing a mobile publishing application called Drafty.
In June 2015, Pinterest unveiled "buyable pins". Rich Pins - pins which have more information than a normal link - will get a new button that allows users to purchase things directly from partners that it's working for. Users will see prices, be able to select specific types of a product (like the color), and then they can tap the button to buy the product. The item will arrive at the user's door. Pinterest made no mention about what users are expected to do if an item purchased in this way proves to be unsatisfactory, or if the user later realises that this frictionless transaction constituted an impulse purchase of an item which would otherwise not have been bought (and thus which the user didn't need to buy).
In December 2015, Pinterest launched a new way for users to monitor price drops on buyable pins. "When users save pins, they’ll get a heads up when a price drops in the form of an in-app notification and an email. They can then jump straight to that pin and make the purchase."
In August 2016, Pinterest launched a video player that lets users and brands upload and store clips of any length straight to the site.
On August 23, 2016, Pinterest announced that it would be acquiring the team behind Instapaper, which will continue operating as a separate app. The Instapaper team will both work on the core Pinterest experience and updating Instapaper.
Terms of service
Pinterest's earlier terms of service ambiguously asserted ownership of user content. A March 2012 article in Scientific American criticised Pinterest's self-imposed ownership of user content stating that "Pinterest's terms of service have been garnering a lot of criticism for stating in no uncertain terms that anything you 'pin' to their site belongs to them. Completely. Wholly. Forever and for always." At the time, Pinterest's terms of service stated that "By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services." Under these terms all personal, creative and intellectual property posted to the site belonged to the website and can be sold. A Scientific American blogger pointed out that this contradicted another line in the terms of service, that, "Cold Brew Labs doesn't claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content."
Several days later, Pinterest unveiled updated terms of service that, once implemented in April, ended the site's previous claims of ownership of posted images. "Selling content was never our intention," said the company in a blog post.
In February 2012, photographer and solicitor Kirsten Kowalski wrote a blog post explaining how her interpretation of copyright law led her to delete all her infringing pins. The post contributed to scrutiny over Pinterest's legal status. The post went viral and reached founder Ben Silbermann who contacted Kowalski to discuss making the website more compliant with the law.
Content creators on sites such as iStock have expressed concern over their work being reused on Pinterest without permission. Getty Images said that it was aware of Pinterest's copyright issues and was in discussion with them.
A meta tag was released by Pinterest in February 2012 to allow websites to opt out of their images being pinned.
Pinterest won the Best New Startup of 2011 at the TechCrunch Crunchies Awards At the 2012 Webby Awards, Pinterest won best social media app and people's voice award for best functioning visual design.
Third-party developers and content
Many third-party developers have created web applications, browser extensions, and even podcasts devoted to Pinterest. These items range from analytics, to enlarging the images on Pinterest's website.
Use by scammers
Social engineering of Pinterest users by scammers to propagate surveys promising free products was noted by the computer security firm Symantec in March 2012. Scam images, often branded with a well-known company name like Starbucks, offer incentives such as gift cards for completing a survey. Once the link in the description is clicked, users are taken to an external site and asked to re-pin the scam image. Victims are phished for their personal information and the promised free product is never delivered.
Other scammers capitalised on the lack of an official Google Play app. Low-quality Pinterest apps purporting to be official have appeared that generate ad revenue or monitor the downloader's activity. There is now an official Pinterest app for Android devices.