Literacy scholar Maryanne Wolf once said, “We were never born to read.
What makes us readers?’ What mysterious force drives a person to spend hours and hours over the pages of a book without any apparent reward and most of the time without any clear objective? (Source)
So it’s a good job that the web has become such a visual space. With 80 million photos uploaded to Instagram every day, and 350 million to Facebook, Pinterest is in a good place where the visual consumer appetite is concerned. It’s not surprising therefore that in September 2015, it hit 100 million users.
Yet while Instagram has conventionally been most closely associated with the visual web at 92.4% of respondents, it’s about 10 percentage points ahead of Pinterest the latter could now be closing the gap with the introduction of its new visual search tool.
This tool enables users to zoom in on a specific objects in a Pin’s image in order to find similar objects, patterns, or colors, using deep learning to identify visual features, and unearth related images from Pinterest’s database of Pins. At present, Pinterest has indexed approximately 1 billion of its 50 billion images on the new search engine, and eventually hopes to index all of them.
The scale of Pinterest’s ambition is larger than we might expect; it acquired Visual Graph as early as 2010, a start-up headed by Kevin Jing, who previously worked on image search at Google. But Pinterest’s visual search differs from Google in that it’s more of a discovery engine than a search engine, encouraging serendipity, and leveraging the fact that its content has already been curated by its users to suit their own tastes. If Google is the world’s library, then Pinterest is your bookshelf at home. Interesting comparison huh?
And while Pinterest has a smaller audience than Facebook or Twitter (47 million users against Facebook’s 1.4 billion, and Twitter’s 302 million), the platform is far more product-focused, suited to showcasing visual content and shortening the journey from ‘see’ to ‘buy’. This visual content that expedites the sale is apparently vital, just check the numbers again.