How Pinterest Completely Ruined Searching For Photos On The Internet

Last month there were rumors of a deal that would have valued Pinterest at $ 75 billion – a mega-merger between a social media titan and one of the largest digital payment services.

But that never happened. PayPal was in the running to buy Pinterest for $ 70 a share – until all of a sudden it didn’t. On October 24, PayPal made a one-sentence statement: “In response to market rumors regarding a potential acquisition of Pinterest by PayPal, PayPal said it is not looking to acquire Pinterest at this time. “

PayPal didn’t give any details, but whatever the real reason, one thing many of us can agree on is this: Pinterest sucks, and it has completely ruined the search for photos on the internet.

Loved by moodboard enthusiasts and wedding planners, the platform is hated by grassroots internet users. It’s not that he doesn’t have his purpose; it’s just that it intrudes on the search experience of pretty much anyone who doesn’t want to use it.

KAREN BLEIER / AFP / Getty Images

Over 28,000 Chrome users have installed Unpinterested !, an extension to remove Pinterest from Google search results, while countless more are exchanging tips on how to create search queries to exclude the photo-sharing website . The problem? Pinterest makes it extremely difficult to view an image hosted on its platform without creating an account.

And it has managed to get an extremely strong presence on many popular image searches. This state of affairs creates friction in the process of capturing images, which has been refined over the past 20 years to become as smooth as possible. And all this apparently with the aim of increasing the number of Pinterest users.

Pinterest, it should be noted, does not cost anything to register. But as the old Internet maxim goes, “If you don’t pay for it, you are the product.” Meanwhile, people who use the service complain that the resolution of Pinterest images is often low.

The creator of Unpinterested !, South African developer Sello Mkantjwa, says Grab he created the extension three years ago out of frustration. “I used to do a lot of image research,” he says. “I was doing a search for a scarf or something, and the top 10 results would show up as Pinterest. Many images are interesting when they appear in the results. You clicked on it and you were asked to create an account in order to have access to this image.

Mkantjwa would then hit the back button and try a different result – and often hit the same wall. “Each search for images ended up turning into this little dance.”

He is not alone. The HackerNews posters begged Google engineers to curb Pinterest’s ability to play with the search engine, with one calling it “a spam blog that hijacks inbound search engine referrals to post full screen login screens and nothing else “.

And really, where is the lie?

“I can’t imagine the products I’m working on being so difficult to access and use,” says Sara Babcock, software product manager from Atlanta, who is among those who have given up on Pinterest. except in cases of absolute necessity after being swindled by its search result page scam.

“It was just the death of a million cuts for me – can’t access source content, needs to download an app, can’t fix user errors, needs to log in to see something from Google – and now I guess I hold a grudge, ”she said.

Starting around 2011, Babcock would use Pinterest as a digital scrapbook for personal and professional projects, with boards for weddings, crafts, home decor, fashion, and user interfaces. But in 2017, after Pinterest Support couldn’t help Babcock restore a bulletin board she accidentally deleted, she closed her account. “Now I use Miro,” she says, referring to a similar bulletin board style service.

Christine Stroup, a sales and account management professional, encountered similar problems while trying to renovate two historic homes she bought in Mobile, Alabama. To modernize the properties, starting in 2016, she looked to find furniture and accessories suitable for her age, from marble countertops to wallpaper. , hinges and mantels.

“Just when I think I’m going to a brass weather stripping supplier’s website – no, it’s Pinterest,” she says. “It takes time.” She started adding “-pinterest” to her search queries to exclude all results from the site.

Alistair Scott, who works in communications in London, has seen his Internet experience totally change thanks to Pinterest. “The way I learned to search, browse and find images 10 or even five years ago doesn’t work anymore. I always run into endless walls and try to adapt.

Pinterest’s “bait and change” tactic annoys Scott the most: “You see the image you want, try to open it, and you’re taken to a Pinterest login screen. But Scott admits the problem isn’t limited to Pinterest: “It’s not the only company that recognizes that you can abuse the trust we’ve all built in Google to get the answer. Scott’s particular scarecrow: Sites that offer logos with fake checkerboard backgrounds when looking for a transparent PNG.

Scott laments the end of the Internet’s “gold rush era”. “We’ve all grown too used to being able to dive in and get photos through Google without really caring who ultimately hosted them,” he says.

“Immense instability”

It’s a big loss for ordinary internet users, but a godsend for Pinterest.

“The kinds of disruptions you’re referring to here – how one emerging service disrupts another established service – are at the heart of a lot of technology development and this is how tech giants get market share.” , explains William Kilbride, Executive Director of Digital Preservation. Coalition, which ensures that companies do the right thing to preserve digital data. “But it also creates immense instability for users.”

For Kilbride, Pinterest’s manipulation of Google search results has a direct negative impact on his work and that of his organization. “The digital preservation community is now pretty good at preserving file content and data more broadly,” he says. “But we are a long way from understanding how to keep up with the continued development of the algorithms that users rely on to find and retrieve content. Plus, tech companies will likely never share this with anyone because it’s their secret sauce. “

Those who are trying to preserve the internet also have issues with Pinterest hijacking any Google search results you might want to do. “There’s always a way, and web archiving tools are constantly improving, but walled gardens make it harder to access as many web archives as possible like the Internet Archive,” says Ben Fino. -Radin of Small Data Industries, a New York archival company.

A Pinterest spokesperson said the problem does not belong to the company, but to to look for engines.

A spokesperson for Pinterest tells Grab that the problem is not with the company, but with the search engines. “As a search engine, Google controls how results appear based on engagement and how useful searchers find content.”

(The spokesperson also responded to the common complaint about the poor quality of Pinterest images: “There are times when the image size can be a lower resolution to help reduce storage size.” Doing so, they add, increases the speed at which platform pages load.)

The spokesperson gave some indications. “For those who want to see Pinterest content from Google Search without signing in, there is an option to ignore registration prompts and interact with the content,” they say. “At the end of the day, like many services, we ask people to log in for the best personalized recommendations experience.”

Fino-Radin has a suggestion to get us all out of our misery: “Maybe Google should just buy them now that PayPal isn’t. “

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