In fact, in some sense, every social media network is a search engine of sorts. Or, perhaps put more succinctly, the line between a social network and a search engine is blurry. It's getting ever more blurry by the day. Nonetheless, Pinterest is now officially 'putting it out there' they'd like to be thought of as a search engine.
In late 2017, Pinterest began implementing their category shift with a UI tweak. Namely, they moved both the search icon and the 'Lens' feature on their mobile app in more prominent locations.
For those who missed it, 'Lens' is a Pinterest feature which allows users to simply point their camera lens at anything and the app will provide pins related to whatever appears in their camera's viewfinder.
Interestingly enough, Google (whose name is synonymous with the phrase 'search engine') also has a tool called Lens which performs a similar task to Pinterest's offering.
It certainly does seem that way. The reason for this has to do with the same variable that's been driving computer innovation since the beginning: time. You want your device to be as efficient as possible and how you measure that is in time. The more time it saves you, the better.
Leveraging AI and massive processing capabilities, you can now use your camera, rather than your keyboard as an input device. [click_to_tweet tweet="Rather than typing in a description of the awesome sunglasses your favorite TV star is rocking, you can simply whip out your phone, head to Pinterest and search for them using 'Lens'." quote="Rather than typing in a description of the awesome sunglasses your favorite TV star is rocking, you can simply whip out your phone, head to Pinterest and search for them using 'Lens'."]
Popular technology sites are lumping Pinterest in with the rest of the big names in search, so it's not all a PR stunt. It appears that this has been a plan of theirs all along and it's playing out exactly according to plan.
Every social network under the sun is very aware of the "Myspace threat" should they fail to keep up with modern trends. Considering Pinterest turned eight years old in March 2018, they've done well so far.
However, like retired Lieutenant General Rick Lynch's book on leadership, it's a game with two choices: adapt or die. Pinterest has adapted by realizing their true calling.
Pinterest isn't just a place to pin images you find appealing. Far from it. They're a place to discover things that make you happy. Or, a place to discover things you need and want.
No more than 9 months after Pinterest's launch, did Instagram splash on the scene with their image-based network. While they got out in front with the then-huge one billion dollar buyout by Facebook, their older sibling seems to be turning a corner and vying for the lead.
Pinterest has a long uphill climb ahead of them with their monthly unique visitors at a little under 200 million, as compared to the 800 million plus boasted by Instagram. The latter, however, has yet to put itself out there as a search engine.
So, what does it all mean? Chock it up to part boardroom jargon, part marketing, and part relevant strategy which could determine the long-term success or utter failure of a platform. Whether or not visual search will remain a key factor in determining a platform's success or not, will remain to be seen.
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