On Wednesday Pinterest launched “Conversations,” a direct instant messaging service that really, really wants to be about objects—not people.
The feature is an addition to “Send a Pin,” a one-click function to email pins—the term Pinterest uses for the images users post on the site—to other users. It has just launched globally and is now available on all existing Pinterest platforms, from desktop to tablet to mobile.
“It quickly became one of our most popular features,” a spokesperson told ReadWrite. “There was one problem: when someone sent you a Pin, you couldn’t respond.”
The question was how to make that possible without losing sight of what Pinterest is about.
Stick A Pin In It
With the addition of Conversations, there are now two ways to communicate with other users on Pinterest. The first is to simply comment on somebody else’s pin.
Conversations is a little more intimate. One user begins the conversation by sending a pin to the other. It appears in a small chat box in the lower corner of the screen, similar to Facebook messages. From there, the other user can respond with a message of their own or by sending other pins or even boards.
Each channel of communication is very overtly nudging users to talk about an object on Pinterest. The clear intent is to make it weirdly off topic for users to talk about something other than the pin in question. Additionally, you can’t initiate a capital-C Conversation in a normal, conversational way—you have to start with a picture of something on Pinterest.
“This is different from other messaging platforms because conversations start around a pin, and are focused on planning,” a spokesperson said.
It’s The Things, People, Not The People
Pinterest has never been about making connections with other people; rather, it’s more of a tool for turning inward. Through new search channel Interests and Related Pins, it encourages users to follow topics that interest them, not people they know. You’re less likely to use Pinterest to keep tabs on family and friends than you are to follow up on your own expanding interests.
The Conversations feature may beef up the earlier Send a Pin function, but don’t expect Pinterest to start competing with other sites to build an all-purpose chat app. It has its hands full building a visual search engine that founder Ben Silbermann hopes will leapfrog Google.
Pins are the focus of any discussion held on Conversations, and they’re also the heart of Pinterest’s visual discovery engine, which combines computer algorithms and user curation in order to predict and deliver topics of interests to browsing users.
“In the future, search will be a discovery tool,” said Silbermann. “Pinterest at its heart is about discovering things you didn’t even know were there.”
Photo via Pinterest