"I joined a year ago when it was in beta stage – it was a bit glitchy but I knew within minutes of using it that it would become a daily must for my work and play," says Anna Burles, 41, an interior designer. Founded by two Yale graduates – Paul Sciarra (a former venture capitalist) and Ben Silbermann (a former Google advertising product specialist) – Pinterest.com lets users create virtual internet pinboards.
Pageviews in November increased by 2000 per cent from June, according to digital analyst comScore. At 421 million, it had surpassed even super-popular craft website Etsy. Time magazine named Pinterest one of the five best social media sites of 2011. Now, everyone is talking about it and rushing to sign up.
With its clean, easy-to-use design, Pinterest taps into our desire to express ourselves and to discover things. Download a "Pin It" button to the bookmarks toolbar and click on it when you find images you like on a web page. It's that simple. Or snap your own photos with the Pinterest iPhone app. The collected images are then categorised and tagged with a description. Users have the option of subscribing to an individual collection or to everything another user posts. Collect, organise and share, that's basically what Pinterest is all about. Silbermann himself posted all the T-shirts he ever wanted to buy.
Recognisable names on the site include the model Coco Rocha and Project Runway's Nina Garcia and, as I write, it is reported that Mark Zuckerberg just signed up. Last week the journalist India Knight was enthusiastically tweeting about it to her 57,000 followers. In January, Rocha tweeted, "Dear Fashion, Pinterest is to 2012 what Tumblr was to 2011. There, I said it. If you need an invitation, DM me."
That's the other thing about Pinterest. You either sign up on the website and wait to be approved for an invite or have an existing Pinterest account holder send you one. It's reminiscent of the early days of a certain email service (cough, Gmail) launched by a certain popular search engine. I succumbed to the hype last November and queued up for an invite after seeing people in my twitter feed rave about it. By December my account was activated and now I spend about 30 minutes a day on the site. It touches on my instincts for collecting and organising – my Pinterest boards are neat categories of inspiring photographs, interesting graphic design and vintage magazine covers.
Launched in March 2010, Pinterest only started gaining momentum late last year. And according to Silbermann, the site's first users were mostly women in the US Midwest, and most addicts continue to be women. Luci Hindmarsh, 39, who blogs at mother.wife.me, joined only a month ago but already finds it compulsive. "It's a good way to keep track of cool stuff I've seen on the web. I'm like a magpie when it comes to beautiful things, so it is nice to have somewhere to stick all the online gems I find."
Crafting and hobbyists have also found ways of using Pinterest for inspiration. Kerry Davies, 28, a social media manager, says: "I use it for ideas of things to make, crafts, recipes, jokes, what pieces of clothing to piece together. Just about anything really."
Every time a new social media network gains steam, companies and brands are never far behind. Its wide digital reach – Pinterest had 11 million unique users in January – can be used for leverage. Bergdorf Goodman uses it like a catalogue with categories such as "favourite fashion moments from New York Fashion Week" and "winter beauty solutions". Traditional media outlets such as Time and Newsweek also have profiles. Burles, who runs her own interior design business, says: "When I'm researching furniture and accessories or art to buy for a project, I create a board which I then share with my client – they give me direction about the things they love most."
It took five years for Tumblr to hit fever pitch – it had 14 billion pageviews in December, investment poured in and the company now needs to prove it can turn a profit. We could see a similar drastic expansion from Pinterest. So women, be warned, keep an eye on your addiction.
Karen Hodkinson's Pinterest is http://pinterest.com/thedailymum