March 14, 2012

Pinterest, The Next Social Network Craze?

You may have heard of Pinterest, the latest social site for people to share their obsessions and find like-minded enthusiasts of, well, anything.

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, who grew up in Iowa collecting bugs and stamps, said that his goal is to help people discover things that they didn´t know they wanted, “there are plenty of people trying to tell you what you want via billboards, catalogs or internet ads.”

“But no one has really made a lot of progress toward building a place you want to go every day to discover things that feel like they were hand-picked just for you, and that´s what I can hope we can do,” Silbermann told a packed ballroom at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference in Austin.

Christina Gomez displays her dream cribs, rockers and mobiles on the site, but doesn´t even have a child. Pinterest allows users to “pin” images and follow others´ collections and has surged in recent months to become the 16th most-visited site in the United States, according to the web information company Alexa. That´s a higher rank than

Gomez, resides in a small, 900-square-foot home in Texas and is about to move to a smaller place in Washington, D.C., and Pinterest allows her to collect things - such as USB drives shaped like teddy bears - without taking up precious physical space.

Like other users, she has organized her pictures into boards with titles like “Sewing Projects,” “Gift Ideas” and “For the new house. She has used it to post pictures of clothes she already owns and to learn to cook with a crock pot.

The growth of Pinterest has been fueled primarily by women, including those planning their weddings, said Robert Quigley, who teaches new media and multimedia at the University of Texas. The draw is the site´s simplicity, he said.

“The rise of Pinterest has been absolutely incredible - it just came out of nowhere,” Quigley said. “It´s so visual, it´s easy to use and simple - yet complex enough to allow you to organize the way you want.”

Pinterest isn´t only for women or their interests however. Guillaume Driscoll, a design student at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, said he and his girlfriend both use the site. Before he joined a few months ago, he was interested in clothes, but “not on a level of some of my lady friends.”

He´s seen that change as he´s pinned more clothes, like colorful socks and a grey cashmere sport coat from J. Crew. “Now, I´m starting to think about it more. What is my style? What does my style say about me?” said Driscoll, who was visiting Austin for SXSW.

Silbermann said it makes sense for people to use Pinterest to explore topics that lifestyle magazines focus on -- design, home decorating, cooking and fitness -- but he´s also seeing new uses like political satire (say, Mitt Romney´s fake yacht collection).

Museums are using Pinterest to post art collections. Some users are posting travel guides to cities. “Every day, literally, we see at least one board where we just couldn´t have imagined how people would use it and to me, that´s really exciting,” Silbermann said.


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