Pinterest hones in on search with mobile-first in mind

Pinterest is taking a mobile-first approach with its next data-inspired scheme for content discovery, which could eventually open up to a new revenue stream.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO—Like many budding social networks that explode in the popular consciousness, Pinterest doesn't appear to have a growth problem (from the outside looking in) but revenue streams are still questionable.

A few months ago, Pinterest lined itself up with content producers (especially in the travel industry) with Place Pins.

Now, the digital scrapbooking platform is shifting the focus toward content discovery.

At a splashy invite-only party at its SOMA district office, involving vegan raspberry rhubarb cookies and stations for infusing vodka with chili peppers, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann outilned three "improvements" coming to Pinterest:

  • Related pins: A product already on the platform, essentially a replication of related links and suggested content based on existing pins and related interests. 
  • Custom categories: Self-descriptive, and described by Silbermann to represent the "diverse" user base on Pinterest. Coming a bit later on desktop and mobile.
  • Search: This is really the crux of solving the Pinterest value equation. Referring to search engines in general, Silbermann acknolwedged that search is a tricky problem for most Internet users given the infinity of information and content that is the Internet. As for Pinterest, the big new reveal is Guided Search, characterized by Silbermann as "an approach that focuses on exploration rather than information retrieval."

Highlighting that Guided Search is geared toward content discovery on mobile more so than the desktop channel, Silbermann stressed that this feature will focus on browsing and visual search versus text.

"The people who use Pinterest are such kind, such inspiring, such creative people," remarked Silbermann, positing that since the social network launched a few years ago, that demographic aspect really hasn't changed."

Pinterest engineer Kevin Ma revealed that Guided Search stems from "trillions of data sets," serving as the solution for making sense of that deluge of text and objects floating around hundreds of millions of digital pin boards to date.

Citing categories and keywords as simple as "veggie," "burger," "recipe," and "easy," Ma reiterated Silbermann's comments as to how Guided Search is a bare-basics search engine that should bring users to what they are looking for faster but through a simpler manner.

Prototyped by just three people with a team of just a dozen Pinterest employees, Guided Search will be rolled out to iOS and Android first.


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