Pinterest, like game maker Zynga and many others before it, likely wouldn't have grown as popular without the help of Facebook, the world's largest online social network. Facebook said last month that the number of its users visiting Pinterest every day grew by 60 percent after it was integrated into the site in January.
Investors include prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of reviews site Yelp Inc. Pinterest, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., is privately held and does not disclose how much money it is making.
The site doesn't have advertisements or a clear path to profitability, but that's common with Internet companies just starting out. Facebook and Twitter didn't have ways of making money either when they started. Pinterest says on its website that making money is a long-term goal but not the immediate priority. The company and Silbermann did not respond to multiple requests for interviews.
Unlike other startups, whose early users tend to be men under 35, Internet tracking firm comScore estimates that 68 percent of Pinterest users are women, and these women drive 85 percent of the traffic on the site. In other words, not only are there more women on Pinterest but they are much more active than men. More than half the women on the site are 35 or older.
Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, believes part of the reason that Pinterest's early adopters are less geeky than usual is that there is, literally, "nothing to adopt." There's nothing to download and no complex controls to master. You simply log in and pin.
Then again, Pinterest may just be a sign that technology is not just for geeky guys any more. After all, women tweet, use smartphones, blog and write code for websites.
Not everyone finds Pinterest useful, though. Lori Choman, who's retired and describes herself as a "DIY-er," short for do-it-yourself, says it's not worth her time. She received an invite and joined at the nudging of her friends about three months ago.
But while she says she saw "great photos" that others pinned, she found it difficult to find out any information about the images. Over and over, she says, she'd "click and click and click," but find herself unable to get names of recipes or instructions for craft projects. Instead, the links often lead to shopping sites.
"It's like getting a Sunday paper circular designed by my friends of things they like," says Choman, who lives in Auburn, Ga.
Because it's rooted in unencumbered image-sharing, Pinterest has also raised copyright concerns. Lawyers, however, say its legal standing is no different than those of other popular websites, such as YouTube or Facebook. A 1998 federal law offers websites vast protections from what their users post as long as they promptly respond to any complaints after the fact.
Pinterest's creators registered Pinterest.com in 2009, but it didn't take off until last summer. ComScore says the site had 17.8 million U.S. visitors last month, up about 50 percent from 11.7 million in January and nearly four times the 4.9 million in November. ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman says he has not seen an independent website reach 10 million visitors faster than Pinterest.
In another sign it's made a mark, Pinterest has already spawned parody. The gender discrepancy is probably why someone thought to create Manteresting.com, a site that looks just like Pinterest — but for dudes.
Instead of pinning images, you nail them. Instead of puppy photos and cupcakes, there are Star Wars references, beer and sneakers. Instead of willowy dresses and floppy hats, the women of Manteresting wear as little as possible.
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