“What is Pinterest?” let's pretend, for the purposes of this article, I hear you ask.
Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, enabling you to “organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” According to the patter in the site's “About” section, people are using it to “plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organise their favourite recipes.”
This all sounds ferociously dull. But Pinterest is the fastest growing website of all time, having reached the 10 million-user mark in just nine months. So there must be a bit more to it than the massive, digital Women's Institute moodboard it appears to be.
Here's how it works: once you sign-up – the site is still currently invite-only, but you can request one on the homepage if you don't know anyone already using the service – you begin filling your “pinboard” with toss you've found on the internet, usually based around a particular theme.
It's a frumpy Tumblr. An Instagram with a 50s Good Housekeeping ethos
You add content – “Pins” – by uploading a link or using a special “Pin It” bookmarklet button, then select an image and add some text to customise how it will appear on your board. Once you've shared something – “Pinning” – other users can “Repin”, “Like” or comment on items you've posted. You can also follow and be followed by other users – with an option to @ them, just like Twitter.
Despite the idealistic “Pin Etiquette” section of the site – which asks users to “not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion” – the service does have obvious commercial potential. But also, more usefully, arts and culture appeal, and is already succeeding in driving huge traffic to magazines – particularly women's magazines. There are, however, problems surrounding copyright, as “Pins” automatically feature images that users, typically, don't have the rights to reproduce.
Pinterest's main problem – or the key to its success, depending on how you look at it – is the bridal tat, planning stuff, interior design and food boards that dominate the service. It's a frumpy Tumblr. An Instagram with a 50s Good Housekeeping ethos. To cement this mumsy feel, the service even advises they “do not allow nudity”.
But, here are a few boards that have impressed me:
This Is Not Porn is ace. It's the home of loads of rare photos of actors, musicians and sportsman. Pinterest seems the perfect platform for TINP as you can quickly scan through images, but are still likely to visit the proper site to see more.
This board is home to pictures of barrels of money captioned, “Ann and I hung this in one of the guest bathrooms”; truffles – “These things are great deep fried”; and abstract sculptures – “I don't even know what this is but I have 12 of them”.
Clue's in the title: this is a collection of famous folk with catastrophic barnets: Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Gene Wilder. Sadly, no place for Gary Neville. Yet.
As the name suggests, this Pinterest is dedicated to houses in trees – proper mental houses in trees. The structures collected on this board are some of the most impressive feats of engineering I've ever seen – grand, elaborate, wooden acts of pure folly.
If you use Spotify, you need to visit ShareMyPlaylists.com – a service that allows you to upload playlists, complete with artwork, intro and title. It's also an ace way to discover new music – which is what this board is all about.
Pinterest, then. I'm sceptical of the service based on the fact it that it actively discourages new content. Maybe we've collectively given up on creativity altogether and are content to regurgitate, in perpetuity, bumf that already exists. I envisage it becoming very popular with meretricious dolts that assume tweeting a picture Alexa Chung makes them voguish by association.
But it could turn out to be new and interesting way to tell stories and share information. It may grow into the crack-cocaine-of-social-media territory that Tumblr currently operates in. Or it might continue on its current, incredibly dowdy trajectory. It's just too early to tell.
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