Pinterest, the Site for People who Love Cupcakes and Jake Gyllenhaal

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Dec. 6 2011 5:52 PM

Cupcakes, Boots, and Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal

If you like any of those things, you should be on Pinterest.

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But what bothers me most about Pinterest is its earnestness. Unlike Tumblr, where people often post stuff just to make fun of it, Pinterest feels like the least cynical place on the Web. Though the site is based in Palo Alto, Calif., its founder, Ben Silberman, is from Des Moines, Iowa, and he has said that the site first caught on among women in the Midwest. Perhaps that explains why people don’t Pin stuff ironically, or to convey any other emotion aside from full-throated, earnest appreciation. This is not a site that will make you laugh. Ever.

What I learned from browsing around Pinterest is that I consider the Web my own personal laugh machine. I like to scour the day’s links for pictures and videos that make me laugh, which is why I follow who I follow on Twitter and why I’m always reloading Buzzfeed. If I’m looking for solemnity, I’ll read a book.

You could argue that the stuff I don’t like about Pinterest isn’t really a problem with the site, just with the kind of content it’s attracted so far. As Pinterest grows, won’t it attract stuff that’s more to my liking?

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Perhaps, but I doubt it. There’s something intrinsic in the site’s design—the way it cleanly lays out photos—that seems perfect for pictures of home furnishings and designer boots, and that wouldn’t work as well for a list of the 25 Biggest Facepalm Moments of 2011. More importantly, I don’t think it should change. Just because I’m not into Pinterest doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to lots of other people. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll love it for exactly the same reasons I don’t.

Part of what makes the site so successful is that its designers know their audience, and they’re not willing to expand the site into something it isn’t—a place for slapstick viral videos, say—just to grow faster. In the summer, I wrote about Ravelry, a social network for knitters that I also would never use myself. That site worked, I argued, because it managed to replicate a real-life community on the Web.

Pinterest feels the same way. It’s not for everyone. It’s probably not even for most people. If you prefer to see the Web as a series of links—as I do—then you’re probably already having the time of your life on Twitter. But if you like design and art and typography and sharing your favorite things, then Pinterest might just be your new home on the Web.

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