What Your Pinterest API Will Look Like

Here's a confidential message to developers from Pinterest: the coveted API, which many developers would like to get their hands on to access Pinterest services for their own apps, already exists—it’s just not ready for you yet.  

According to Head of Engineering Jon Jenkins, Pinterest’s internal application programming interface is in regular use by the company. It’s the same technology that will be primed to form the base of the public API. 

A Long Wait

Pinterest’s API has been a highly anticipated developer tool since before it ever existed, since Pinterest first hinted at it in March 2012. According to ProgrammableWeb, the Pinterest API page is the site’s most frequently trafficked page, revealing the developer community’s impatience for the feature. 

Much like TweetDeck does for Twitter and Missing E does for Tumblr, the Pinterest API would allow programmers to create apps that add increased usability to Pinterest. Granted, apps like these already exist—they’re just woefully time-consuming since the only means of getting data from Pinterest is to scrape the data out. 

Still, Jenkins has said it’d be a better solution for Pinterest to help developers more easily access and scrape Pinterest data than it would be to release the API prematurely.

“I’ve seen some APIs be released that caused nightmarish decisions down the road,” Jenkins told AllThingsD. “Once you give the developer access and then go and yank it, you’ve pulled the rug out from under them.”

In the meantime, Jenkins stressed that Pinterest is working to provide tools on its Developers page, which include versions of the Pin It button for desktop, iOS, and Android. While these put select features at developers’ disposal, they don’t go anywhere near providing the richness of an API. 

Not The “Be All, End All”

Today, the company isn’t any closer to revealing a release date for the public API. But Pinterest is finally opening up about the features it will have. That’s because, with the internal API alive and kicking, it’s easier for engineers to explain which features it currently has now. 

Pinterest, which ran on its original codebase for the majority of its life, is now bolstered up by its own API. Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou, who worked on the project, said the new structure helps Pinterest on desktop to communicate with its iOS apps. 

“Any company with an iOS app has an API,” Chou said. “For us, that means being able to push updates across multiple platforms quickly.”

Internally, Pinterest uses the app to measure analytics, filter search, and most importantly, power the codebase. But needless to say, not every internal feature is going to available in the public API. 

So far, Jenkins was able to reveal three functions of the public API:

  • Analytics. Developers will build tools for companies and individuals to see their most popular pins—or even the site’s most popular pins overall. Apps like Curalate and Tailwind will no longer have to spend unnecessary computer power scraping data from Pinterest line by line. 
  • Mobile SDK. Developers will be able to build features that allow people to be alerted on their phones when actions occur in their Pinterest apps. Currently, Pinterest only supports developers who want to add the Pin It button to mobile.
  • Rich Pins. “Ultimately, every pin has to become a rich pin,” said Jenkins. Pinterest currently supports rich pins for products, recipes, movies and articles. An API will not only help developers format their apps to work with rich pins, but will allow them to assist in making new rich pin verticals for other categories.

It’s a reflection of Pinterest’s steady allegiance to quality over all else, user impatience included.

“We’re going for quality over quantity,” said Jenkins. “Rather than be-all, end-all API, we’re focusing on specific high value API endpoints for partners and pinners.”