Pinning Down the Latest Craze

Remember pinning magazine cutouts of your favorite actors, musicians and athletes to your bedroom wall when you were a kid? Not only was it a way to surround yourself with inspiring figures, but it also allowed you to show off your good taste to visiting friends. That’s the essence of social-networking darling Pinterest, a website that’s exploded in new users and filled tech headlines in recent months even though it’s been around since 2010.

Currently operating in invitation-only beta mode—most likely to prevent a visit from the “fail whale” during this onslaught of attention—Pinterest is an online pinboard that allows you to create and manage theme-based image collections, known in the platform’s vernacular as a “pin.” Each pin can be a photo or a video that’s organized into specific collections or “boards.”

Adding a pin can be done in a variety of ways, but the easiest option is a “Pin It” browser-installed button that lets you display any media available on the webpage you’re on. You can also re-pin from other users’ boards or upload directly to the site. If it sounds like a rather basic concept, it is, but that’s one of the reasons it has grown in popularity so quickly.

Just like another website built on a simple action (hint: rhymes with hitter), Pinterest is proving to be extremely malleable. Companies already are using it as a marketing tool to showcase their newest wares or sell a certain lifestyle, lucrative signs that bode well for the platform’s eventual business model. And individuals are spending hours making collections of the things they love and sharing their interests through visuals—just like that cutout-covered wall in your childhood bedroom.