If you’re still on the fence about Pinterest, here’s one way you may not have considered using it: as an online bookmarking service. 

From Delicious to Bit.ly, there’s no shortage of networks built around nothing more than bookmarking. But countless users have cast these aside in favor of the image-sharing platform.

Perhaps the big draw is that unlike Delicious or Bit.ly, Pinterest started as a social network that users then adapted as a bookmarking service. Meanwhile, the former two services have not succeeded in turning a helpful product into bustling online communities, as indicated by their significantly lower traffic than Pinterest. 

But one clear advantage Pinterest has is the visual platform for which it’s best known. What better way to recall archived links than to recollect them with a visual cue?

An Open-Ended Platform

Pinterest is unique among leading social networks because its founders didn’t determine how people would use it. Users determined what Pinterest was for.

Pinterest has such a visually appealing, malleable design that it’s been turned into all kinds of clones. Even Amazon is aping its style, presumably because it’s so adaptable. 

It’s not common knowledge that Pinterest, which is usually perceived as a feminine social network, was actually cofounded by men. But instead of the founders determining its use, female early adopters, including CEO Ben Silberman’s mom, populated it with content that gave it the fashion-savvy reputation it has today. If men had discovered it first, it’d probably be used very differently

Short of the terms of service, there are no directions about how to use Pinterest. That’s probably why Pinterest as a bookmarking service has grown so steadily despite getting far less coverage than its use as a fashion- or design-sharing tool. To people discovering Pinterest for the first time, visual bookmarking just makes sense.

To prime your browser for one-click Pinterest bookmarking, install the Pin It button. To see what others are sharing now, a cursory search on Pinterest for pinboards titled “articles”, “pin now, read later,” “articles to read" or "news" will give you a good idea of how much bookmarking is used. Another trick: try going to http://pinterest.com/source/NameofWebsite.com, with your preferred site address at the end of the URL, to see just how many people are bookmarking your favorite site for future reading. 

Something “Timeless”

At last year’s South by Southwest conference, Silberman observed that one of his favorite things about Pinterest was its “timelessness.”

"I wanted to create a service that was a little bit timeless,” he said. “If something's your favorite book, it's no less your favorite book five years from now or ten years from now. It can still say something about who you were then and who you want other people to know you as. But at the time, all the services were totally relevant. Twitter was the buzz. You never see a tweet older than 48 hours, unless it's ironic. Pinterest has a timelessness that I really love, and I think boards are a part of that idea."

Unlike a tweet or a Facebook status, each which stays relevant for less than a day, pins have enduring long tails that keep them clickworthy for months. Or as a Pinterest spokesperson said in an email:

Pinterest is unique to other services in that the article is easy to save on a board and reference it later, and is easily discoverable over time, as it doesn't fall off the page. On other platforms, news is valuable but legacy content goes nowhere. Great content lives on in Pinterest and old stuff is rediscovered all the time.

When you save things for later on Pinterest, you're not just prolonging your own news discovery cycle, but that of every other pinner, too. 

Photo by SimplySteff on Flickr