|Type of business||Public|
Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Traded as||NYSE: PINS (Class A)|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S,|
|Key people||Ben Silbermann (CEO)|
Evan Sharp (chief product officer)
Pinterest is an American image sharing and social media service designed to enable saving and discovery of information (specifically "ideas") on the World Wide Web using images and, on a smaller scale, animated GIFs and videos, in the form of pinboards. The site was created by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp and had over 400 million monthly active users as of August 2020. It is operated by Pinterest, Inc., based in San Francisco.
Development of Pinterest began in December 2009, and the site launched the prototype as a closed beta in March 2010. Nine months after the launch the website had 10,000 users. Silbermann said he personally wrote to the site's first 5,000 users offering his personal phone number and even meeting with some of its users. The launch of an iPhone app in early March 2011, brought in more downloads than expected. This was followed by an iPad app and Pinterest Mobile, a version of the website for non-iPhone users. Silbermann and a few programmers operated the site out of a small apartment until the summer of 2011.
Pinterest grew rapidly during this period. On August 10, 2011, Time magazine listed Pinterest in its "50 Best Websites of 2011" article. 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. Pinterest won the Best New Startup of 2011 at the TechCrunch Crunchies Awards. 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. At the 2012 Webby Awards, Pinterest won Best Social Media App and People's Voice Award for best functioning visual design.
On 23 March 2012, Pinterest unveiled updated terms of service that eliminated the policy that gave it the right to sell its users' content. On August 10, 2012, Pinterest altered their policy so that a request or an invitation was no longer required to join the site. In October 2012, Pinterest launched business accounts allowing businesses to either convert their existing personal accounts into business accounts or start from scratch.
In February 2019, The Wall Street Journal stated that Pinterest secretly filed for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. The total valuation of the company at the time reached $12 billion. They went public on April 18, 2019 at $19 per share, closing the day at $24.40 per share.
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The creators behind Pinterest summarized the service as a "catalogue of ideas" that inspires users to "go out and do that thing", although that it is not an image-based "social network". It also has a very large fashion profile. In later years, Pinterest has also been described as a "visual search engine".
Pinterest consists mainly of "pins" and "boards". A pin is an image that has been linked from a website or uploaded. Pins saved from one user's board can be saved to someone else's board, a process known as "repinning". Boards are collections of pins dedicated to a theme such as quotations, travel, or weddings. Boards with multiple ideas can have different sections that further contain multiple pins. Users can follow and unfollow other users as well as boards, which would fill the "home feed".
Content can also be found outside Pinterest and similarly uploaded to a board via the "Save" button, which can be downloaded to the bookmark bar on a web browser, or be implemented by a webmaster directly on the website. It was originally called the "Pin it" button but was renamed in 2016 to "Save" due to international expansion, making the site more intuitive to new users.
In August 2016, Pinterest launched a video player that lets users and brands upload and store clips of any length straight to the site.
The home feed is a collection of Pins from the users, boards, and topics followed, as well as a few promoted pins and pins Pinterest has picked. On the main Pinterest page, a "pin feed" appears, displaying the chronological activity from the Pinterest boards that a user follows.
In October 2013, Pinterest began displaying advertisements in the form of "Promoted Pins". Promoted Pins are based on an individual user's interests, things done on Pinterest, or a result of visiting an advertiser's site or app.
In 2015, Pinterest implemented a feature that allows users to search with images instead of words.
In March 2020, Pinterest introduced the "Today" tab on the home feed which shows trending pins.
In 2017, Pinterest introduced a "visual search" function that allows users to search for elements in images (existing pins, existing parts of a photo, or new photos) and guide users to suggested similar content within Pinterest's database. The tools powered by artificial intelligence are called Pinterest Lens, Shop the Look, and Instant Ideas.
The platform has drawn businesses, especially retailers, to create pages aimed at promoting their companies online as a "virtual storefront".
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.
In March 2019, Pinterest added product catalogs and personalized shopping recommendations with the "more from [brand]" option, showcasing a range of product Pins from the same business.
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 some aspects of user data that Pinterest Analytics provides. It also collects data that depicts the percentage of change within a specific time, to determine if a product is more popular on a specific day during the week, or slowly becoming 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. Through the access of Pinterest Analytics, companies receive insight to data via API.
In February 2013, Reuters and ComScore stated that Pinterest had 48.7 million users globally, and a study released in July 2013 by French social media agency Semiocast revealed the website had 70 million users worldwide. In October 2016, the company had 150 million monthly active users (70 million in the U.S. and 80 million outside it), rising to 175 million monthly active users by April 2017 and 250 million in September 2018. In 2020, there were over 335 million monthly active users with 88 million within the US.
Pinterest has largely appealed to women, especially its early user base. In 2012, a report found that 83% of the global users were women. In terms of age distribution, the Pinterest demographic closely resembled the U.S. Internet population as of 2012. In October 2016, the proportion of women users was lower at 60%, although 60% of new signups were women and 40% were men.
Data from Pinterest has been used for research in different areas. For example, it is possible to find patterns of activity that attract the attention of audience and content reposting, including the extent to which users specialize in particular topics, and homophily among users. Another work focused on studying the characteristics, manifestations and overall effects of user behaviors from various aspects, as well as correlations between neighboring users and the topology of the network structure. There is also study, that based on Pinterest proposed a novel pinboard recommendation system for Twitter users.
In early 2011, the company secured a US$10 million 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 US$27 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, which valued the company at US$200 million.
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 also a director of developer tools, platform analysis and website platform.
In late October 2013, Pinterest secured a $225 million round of equity funding that valued the website at $3.8 billion.
In 2014, Pinterest generated its first revenue, when it began charging advertisers to promote their wares to the site's millions of hobbyists, vacation 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.
In June 2017, Pinterest raised $150 million from a group of existing investors.
In August 2020, Pinterest paid $89.5 million to cancel a large office space lease on a to-be-completed complex in San Francisco's SoMa area, near their current headquarters.
In March 2013, Pinterest acquired Livestar. Terms were not disclosed. In early October 2013, Pinterest acquired Hackermeter. The company's co-founders, Lucas Baker and Frost Li, joined Pinterest as engineers.
In April 2015, Pinterest acquired the team from Hike Labs, which had been developing a mobile publishing application called Drafty.
In May 2016, Pinterest acquired mobile deep linking startup URX to help accelerate its content understanding efforts. The URX team's expertise in mobile content discovery and recommendation would prove critical to helping Pinterest understand its corpus of over 100 billion pins, to better recommend them to its users.
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.
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 cannot claim safe harbor status and as such are exposed to possible legal action for pinning copyright material. Pinterest allows users to transfer information; intellectual property rights come to play.
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.
Pinterest released a statement in March 2012 saying it believed it was protected by the DMCA's safe harbor provisions.
In early May 2012, the site added automatic attribution of authors on images originating from Flickr, Behance, YouTube and Vimeo. Automatic attribution was also 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 have not opted out of sharing their images.
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.
In February 2012, photographer and lawyer 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.
Pinterest's earlier terms of service ambiguously asserted ownership of user content. A March 2012 article in Scientific American criticized 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 could be sold. A Scientific American blogger pointed out that this contradicted another line in the terms of service, that "Cold Brew Labs does not 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.
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.
In its 2019 "Who Has Your Back?" report, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Pinterest a three (out of six) star rating, highlighting improvements in the company's transparency reports about government takedown notices, but criticizing the lack of a clear commitment to notify users about content removals and account suspensions.
In March 2017, Chinese authorities blocked Pinterest without explanation. The block was imposed during the annual National People's Congress, a politically sensitive period in the country. While Pinterest is not known for its political content, experts identified the ban as consistent with Chinese government efforts to use website blocks and the "Great Firewall" as an industrial policy tool to promote Chinese tech companies (e.g., Baidu, Youku, Weibo, and Renren) by censoring foreign tech companies. Huaban, Duitang and many other websites bear similarities to Pinterest.
Internet service providers in India had blocked Pinterest following a Madras High Court order in July 2016 to block a list of around 225 "rogue websites indulging in online piracy and infringement of copyright". The block was temporary.
In October 2012, Pinterest added a new feature allowing users to report others for negative and offensive activity or block other users if they do not want to view their content, a bid that the company said aimed to keep the site "positive and respectful."
In December 2018, Pinterest began to take steps to block health misinformation from its recommendations engine, and blocked various searches, content, and user accounts that related to, or promoted, unproved and disproven cancer treatments. The company said it also blocked multiple accounts that linked to external websites that sold supplements and other products that were not scientifically validated. In January 2019, Pinterest stopped returning search results relating to vaccines, in an effort to somehow slow the increase of anti-vaccination content on the platform. Prior to the measure, the company said that the majority of vaccination-related images shared on the platform were anti-vaccination, contradicting the scientific research establishing the safety of vaccines.
In June 2019, anti-abortion group Live Action was banned from Pinterest; the company said the permanent suspension was imposed for spreading "harmful misinformation, [which] includes medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence."
Pinterest employs more than 800 employees worldwide, including 350 engineers.
Among other things, Pinterest says it never intended to sell user content and has removed from its terms of service wording that granted the company the right to do so.
Media related to Pinterest at Wikimedia Commons