Pinterest - hot new network or another Quora?

Drawing pins

After a decade of struggle, the social networking battlefield has quietened down. Facebook is the undisputed champion, while Twitter serves for instant news and comment. Google+ tries hard but, as one wag put it, it's like the gym - we all join but nobody uses it. But could there be another challenger - a visual network where people share images on a virtual pinboard?

Pinterest has been around for a couple of years, a place with a largely female and American audience, where people share ideas on design, fashion, travel, books - or anything else you can think of - by "pinning" photos to their various boards.

Over the past few weeks, it has suddenly become the hottest property on the web. In its monthly report on web activity, the ratings firm Comscore revealed that Pinterest was the third fastest growing site in the United States, with its audience rising from 7.5 million unique visitors in December to 11.7 million in January.

Those figures, coupled with a few articles in the tech blogs, have created a tremendous amount of buzz around the network. Over the past week I've noticed that a lot of my friends have joined, and that everywhere I go online the name Pinterest seems to crop up. So no doubt next month's Comscore figures will show even more rapid growth in the site's users.

It is all reminiscent of the hype a while back about another network, Quora. This site where you could ask and answer questions, often about technology, was very fashionable amongst the digerati at the end of 2010, with heady talk of it overtaking Twitter. I even wrote a piece asking whether it was going to be the next big thing in 2011.

Woman in office, wall decorated with postcards and artworks and drawings Women - not geeks - are Pinterest's early adopters

Well that did not happen, and Quora remains a useful but niche forum with few signs of catching the attention of a mainstream audience.

So will the same thing happen to Pinterest, with a blaze of excitement followed by a return to obscurity? Perhaps not. What is different about this network is that the early adopters appear to have been women with mainstream interests - design, fashion, travel - rather than the geeky guys who peopled Quora, and may have proved intimidating to later arrivals.

When newcomers arrive, they will find the site both attractive to look at and easy to use. Whether they will stick with it is another matter - but if they do, you can also see a business model emerging rather more rapidly than on some other networks.

Much of the content on Pinterest is about products - furniture, clothes, books - and in many ways it is more like browsing through a very attractive catalogue than having a social experience. It is not hard to see how this could be attractive to advertisers, and already some pinboards are beginning to contain links to retailers such as Amazon.

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Along with the countless pictures of cats, cakes and curtains, I've found some boards which appeal to me”

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There are plenty of questions about Pinterest. Will it face a backlash from media owners over a somewhat hazy attitude to copyright? Will there be privacy concerns over the way the network seems to force you to follow your Facebook friends the minute you link the two networks? And do enough people really have time to spend on yet another social network?

Like any social network, Pinterest will only be useful if the people who come to it bring interesting content. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this one will not be a flash in the pan, perhaps because, along with the countless pictures of cats, cakes and curtains, I've found some boards which appeal to me.

There is this collection of pictures of old newsrooms, for instance; another devoted to "fun, geeky things".

And then there's this board about the most notable companies of the month, compiled by someone calling himself Mark Zuckerberg.

If it really is the founder of Facebook, it appears he is keeping a close eye on a new neighbour. Tiny Pinterest is run from Palo Alto, a few miles from the sprawling new headquarters of the biggest social network the world has ever seen. It's unlikely that the upstart will have any impact on the growth of Mr Zuckerberg's business - but, as they say in Silicon Valley, only the paranoid survive.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    These (mainly) female users are sending in other people's copyright material!

    The only photos you can legally submit (i.e. publish) are those that you have taken with models who have signed model release forms that have been photographed from or on public land or with written permission. Photos of cloths or objects also require permission of the owner!

    A clear class action for theft!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Why has social networking become a craze? I just don't get it! I'm 27 years old and FB was just taking off while I was at uni. I refused it then and I refuse it now - I don't want to sit in front of a computer all night after doing so in work for 8 hours & I definitely don't want to people I hardly know or see being able to see what I'm up to all day. ALL you people who use FB are LOSERS!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Pinterest lets you organize & share all beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan weddings, decorate homes, & organize favorite recipes.
    Wow, this site seems so badly mistimed!
    I'm sure those persons who cannot plan huge weddings, who have no home to decorate, or who dumpster dive for food must be truly impressed.
    Pardon me, but I find this site decadent, even sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I cant believe I wasted my 1 minute of 7 reading your ridiculous comment!
    Why dont you spend your 1 minute doing something more worthwhile than moaning about people moaning?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    33.Miss Ingoff

    So you like being at risk of being sued?

    Owners and owners of things have the rights to their image as well as to the thing itself. If you use an image that either isn't yours or is of something or one you did not create or own then you are abusing that right - many people don't care, but some do!

    That is the purpose of Model Release and other forms of written permission.


Comments 5 of 66



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