NEW YORK — Oh, you pretty things. Just look at the mama giraffe nuzzling a baby giraffe, that lovely idea for an indoor planter made of mason jars and those perfectly cooked bacon strips cooling on a plate. This is what people are circulating on Pinterest, the latest website-of-the-moment for sharing things you love.
Clean and simple to use, Pinterest attracts people who need to organize the chaos of Internet-age information overload. It serves as an online scrapbook of images they find on the Web, a place to post fashion inspirations, decorating aspirations and more. It's a digital dream collage, a recipe box and a corkboard full of magazine clippings all at once.
The site's popularity has exploded in recent months, making it one of the fastest-growing websites in history. Its ascent to 10 million monthly visitors happened faster than Facebook, Twitter or any other site tracked by comScore.
What makes Pinterest's surge unusual is that it's driven not by the usual geek crowd of young men from New York and San Francisco, but by women, many of whom live in the Midwest and the central U.S. They use the sleek, photo-heavy website for fashion ideas, wedding planning and home design, or just to share photos of puppies.
Angela Bitz, a secretary at a hospital in Davenport, Iowa, says she was drawn by the site's layout and ease of use. She uses Pinterest to collect decorating ideas for her home and for general crafting and cooking inspiration. She also turns to Pinterest for ideas on making jewelry from objects she finds.
"It has well-organized information that is easy to save and share with others, as well as the ability to keep up on what my friends like and are doing," she says.
Pinterest's co-founder Ben Silbermann is one of the most-anticipated speakers this week at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. As part of a question-and-answer session Tuesday, he'll explain Pinterest's rapid growth outside of Silicon Valley and discuss the company's long-term goals. People will be watching closely, especially because Pinterest has been media-shy in recent weeks amid its meteoric rise.
Much of Pinterest's appeal is about displaying your plans and hopes. The trend is hardly new. Oprah Winfrey fans might recall the "O Dream Board" the talk-show host touted as a place to "envision your best life."
Steve Jones, professor of communication at the University of Illinois in Chicago, likened Pinterest to a bulletin board in a bedroom or dorm room.
"It reminds me of my girlfriends in high school who'd cut stuff out of magazines and pin it up on a wall," he says. "This is the Web-based, digital equivalent of that behavior."
Access to Pinterest is currently by invitation only, so those looking to join need to request one from the company or ask a friend already on it.
Once you're in, you can create a board and name it "recipes," ''weddings" or anything else. As you find images you like on the Web, you "pin" them to your boards to share with others.
"Because it's images only, it takes the clutter of text and Web pages away," says Jennifer Levy, an interior designer in Brooklyn who uses Pinterest to share images with clients and to get inspiration for designs.
You can follow other users on Pinterest, see the most popular pins or find gift ideas by price range. You can browse categories such as architecture, fitness and weddings. You can "like" anything that catches your fancy, re-pin it to your own board or add a comment.
The cascade of images shared on any given day ranges from quirky nail art to a shirtless Ryan Gosling to ephemeral nature scenes. Clicking on an image can take you to a recipe or a blog post, or at times, an empty page.
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