The problem is that Pinterest, which is now valued north of $1 billion, might be equally inclined to tell Getty and other image owners to jump in the lake. The site hasclaimed in the past that it is protected by “safe harbor” rules that protect websites from being liable for users’ activities as long as they comply with takedown requests. If the rule holds, Pinterest should be no more responsible for someone posting a copyrighted picture than a search engine should be for listing a file-sharing site in its search results.
The two-year old company was dubbed TechCrunch’s Best New Startup of 2011 and drew more than 7 million unique visitors in December alone; a vast jump from 1.68 million in September. According to comScore, Pinterest was the fastest growing independent site to hit 10 million monthly unique visits in the U.S., while a new report claims it drives more referral traffic to online retailers than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined.
Magazines like Real Simple and Better Homes and Gardens and marketers like Whole Foods and West Elm have been quick to embrace Pinterest, the social media start-up firm that allows its users to share images by “pinning” them.
Andrew Lipsman, the vice president for industry analysis at the research firm comScore, called the site’s popularity among brands one more example of “the rise of the visual Web,” along with Instagram (which was recently acquired by Facebook) and Facebook’s timeline feature, which is heavily driven by images instead of text.
The main thing that separates it from older social bookmarking sites, such as del.icio.us, is its emphasis on images. And it's that visual interest that makes Pinterest -- created by three men, by the way -- so popular among women, whether they're planning a wedding or looking for a craft to try with their girlfriends.
Pinterest grew 400% from September to December last year, and the site's users are about 58% women.
Nearly a third of all Pinterest users have an annual household income of $100,000 or more, almost 70 percent are female and the largest age demographic represented on the site are people between 25 and 34. A recent study from Flurry Analytics found that the EXACT demographic Pinterest is most popular with is also the one that is the most valuable to mobile advertisers -- young, upper-middle class and female.
What sets Pinterest apart and makes it so appealing is its focus on who we want to be -- not on what we're doing, where we've gone, how important we are or how beloved. While much of the content shared on existing social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare screams, "Look at me," Pinterest posts urge, "Look at this." At least for now, the site offers a refreshing haven away from the boosterism and boasting that plague so many sites.
If you look at the categories of pins on Pinterest, you see that Home, Fashion and Food are the most popular. These are categories with trends where tastemakers are very important, and where the picture tells much of the story. Consumers want to see what experts and celebrities are choosing to eat, wear and sit on. Products and travel are the least popular categories on Pinterest, and these are categories where consumers tend to rely more on recommendations from friends for commerce, and where a picture is just the start of the information consumers need.
The average Pinterest user spends some 98 minutes per month on the site -- more than any other social platform except Tumblr and Facebook.
And Pinterest is responding to its newfound popularity with a few changes.
Silbermann said the site will soon roll out profile pages that have been redesigned to look "more beautiful" and to display users' influencers more prominently.
Pinterest’s latest funding round was led by Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce site, which invested around $50m in the site. Venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital also made investments.
The wesbite was founded by Ben Silbermann in December 2009 and launched to a restricted circle of users in spring 2010.
As you surf the Web each day, whenever you see something that looks interesting or inspiring or funny, you click the Pin It button on your bookmarks bar.
Installing that button there is the only even remotely technical part of using Pinterest. Then again, if you don’t know how to add a bookmark to your Web browser, you have more pressing challenges than mastering the latest social networking sites.