Given the amount of money being thrown at fast-growing startups and social media services, it should come as no surprise that Pinterest raised $200-million last week. The deal gives Pinterest a valuation of $5-billion.
Putting aside the $200-million, the most interesting aspect is how Pinterest appears to be positioning itself as a rival to Google.
On Read Write Web, Lauren Orsini argues Pinterest is going head to head with Google by evolving from a social media network into a powerful visual search engine.
“Pinterest’s last few technological developments have had the site shifting from social sharing to a more explicit focus on search and discovery. It’s clear that the company no longer sees itself as an image-driven social network. Instead, it’s a database of billions of images, selected and categorized by consumers and brands, ripe for discovery.
Many of those images are of objects one can buy—home decor, clothing, food, and the like—making Pinterest a powerful driver of traffic to e-commerce sites and a way for new brands to get discovered by consumers. Today, those businesses might spend money on Google search ads. Tomorrow, they might turn to Pinterest.”
This is one of the most interesting things about Pinterest, which emerged as a user-friendly place to share images and videos. Keep in mind, Pinterest was not an overnight success story. It has been kicking around for a couple of years before it moved into the spotlight, driven by women who gravitated to the service as a way to share their enthusiasm for products such as furniture, clothing and shoes.
Armed with an enthusiastic group of users, Pinterest has methodically improved and updated itself to become a friendlier place for advertisers and e-commerce players. At the same time, it has managed to maintain the essence that made it so popular, which is difficult to achieve.
By becoming a search engine as opposed to a place to “pin” things people like and recommend, Pinterest appears to have achieved something many online services fail to do: transform itself into something with good business prospects, rather than simply a popular service.
With $200-million in its war chest, it will be interesting to see how Pinterest’s next act unfolds.