PALO ALTO, Calif. — Through redecorating a house, starting a new band, running an online magazine and cooking dinner, Pinterest has been there for Brooke White.
"It has changed my creative life," says White, artist and singer-songwriter. Whether it is sharing photoshoot ideas with her band ‘Jack & White,’ painting fireplace screens, or developing a personal aesthetic, "I use this for everything."
Pinterest is an online collection board, a visual bookmarking tool that enables users to organize and share everything from classroom ideas to wedding hair tutorials to deep-sea photography. It is taking off with, well, everyone.
"As a kid, I collected things: jacks, stamps," says Ben Silbermann, one of Pinterest's co-founders. "We thought it’d be cool to create a service about collecting online."
Silbermann says what sets Pinterest apart from other sites is its ability to share offline interests.
"People use Pinterest for a lot of the most important projects in their life right now that are happening off the computer. To us, that’s really cool," Silbermann says. "Our goal isn’t to provide an escape from your regular life — it’s actually to inspire you to go do the things that you might’ve been thinking about doing but didn’t necessarily have the energy yet to get done.”
Here's how it works: First, users sign up for a Pinterest account. The site is currently still invite-only, but requested invitations are almost always granted. Users then create and collect "pins," either by uploading new content or linking to a website or image. "Pinners" can follow other users or boards based on interest or friendship.
The Pinterest home page resembles a photo album, with pins of friends cleanly pasted into a home screen. If you like someone else's pin, you can repin it to your own board. Basically, it's a tool to collect ideas and images from the web and keep them accessible, organizable and sharable.
After its launch in March of 2010, Pinterest snowballed in the blogosphere as people used it to share projects, ideas and inspiration.
“[Pinterest] has changed everything for me as far as cooking and baking goes,” says Kelsey Hansen, a recent college graduate "still learning to cook." She uses Pinterest to find both easy recipes and the inspiration to follow through. “I have made a lot of things I see on Pinterest. I love it.”
"It's being used by a lot of creative and crafty people," says Stacy Risenway, a DIY blogger. She says people who liked her online, do-it-yourself home decor and craft tutorials shared them on Pinterest. "It was already the number one (referral tool) to my site even without me having an account."
Evidently, creativity is contagious. Pinterest’s staff currently does not release user statistics to the public, but Pinterest's Facebook application currently has 2.1 million monthly users, up from 1.5 million two weeks ago.
Web developer Ryan Probasco says he's seen Pinterest's popularity rise since he went to work for the company last July. "Cousins I haven’t talked to in years in different parts of the country are emailing me or phone-calling me asking me about [Pinterest]," he says.
Probasco moved from Provo to Palo Alto in July to join Pinterest's tiny crew — currently a staff of eight. (Pinterest is hiring, however.)
"It's a different kind of creative outlet that I feel like I’m getting from any other service, and I think that’s reflected in our user base, too," Probasco says.
Although there are no specific plans for advertising at present, the company is generating interest among Silicon Valley investors, including founders of Yelp, PayPal and EventBrite.
The company continues to tweak the site, in addition to developing applications for the iPad and Android. And in the meantime, the curlicued "P" becomes more and more popular as creativity finds a home.
"You realize how innovative and creative and smart and crafty people are," says White. "Everything you do is in art, and Pinterest really celebrates that — how everyday life is creative."