Porter Novelli

Pinterest. It’s one of those social networks everyone loves…or loves to hate. Whichever side you’re on, one thing is certainly true: Pinterest is the talk of the town, at SXSW and beyond. Dailies, magazines and blogs can’t stop writing about it, research can’t stop reporting on its record growth and companies are jumping on the “me too” bandwagon quicker than ever.

But it was not always the case. Contrary to what many people think, Pinterest is not really a new service. It was set up in November 2009 and believe it or not, nine months in it hadn’t even reached a 10k user base. The reason why it still exists today is that its founders were too embarrassed to admit their failure. Luckily. A few months ago, the Pinterest craze just suddenly exploded. “It was weird and surreal,” said Ben Silbermann, co-founder of Pinterest, in today’s Q&A with blogger Chris Dixon.

The session was one I really enjoyed.  Ben Silbermann showed a passion for his product that I haven’t seen here yet this week. An ex-Google employee, Ben always wanted to start his own tech company. A collector at heart, his personal passion for collecting stamps and coins gave him the idea for Pinterest. “Things you collect say so much about who you are,” said Ben, “and all I wanted to do was create a site that would help people discover, collect and share things they love.”

Design has always been at the core of Pinterest. It is a simple product framed around people, pins and boards. Awesome boards, because if your collections didn’t look beautiful, why would anyone spend time building them?  Boards should be something users are proud of, something they want to show off to people. Users have always been important to Ben; without them the site wouldn’t exist.

Even though most think the site is all cupcakes and unicorns, there are some unexpected uses that even the founders of Pinterest did not predict. Core lifestyle activities like decorating, cooking, home and design were the obvious uses, but the site is also used by museums to share their art or by travel aficionados to create travel guides. A recent fake Mitt Romney account with yacht collections and great deals gave everyone a good laugh, too.

What’s the future? New profiles, influencer identification, better content attribution and platform expansion. It looks like Pinterest is not going anywhere. Not anytime soon.