Byline: Dan Lyons
Will Pinterest be Silicon Valley's next big hit?
One reason people like social media so much better than TV is that with the tube you just sit there on your couch, but with social media you can be part of the show. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ are basically performance spaces where ordinary people can entertain friends and strangers alike. Not surprisingly, these days a lot of new Web companies seem more like TV shows than like tech companies. These sites cost relatively little to launch, and though most languish, a lucky few catch fire for a while as an audience rushes in to see what all the excitement is about.
The latest "hit show" from Silicon Valley is Pinterest, a site that's been around since 2010 but is just now taking off. The site drew 12 million unique visitors in January, up from 1 million in July, and is on track to draw 20 million in February, which represents faster growth than any other site in history, according to Andrew Lipsman, an analyst at the market-research firm comScore. Pinterest employs only a few dozen people but has raised $37.5 million in funding and was recently valued at $200 million. That seems rich, but remember that a few years ago people looked crazy buying Facebook shares at a $500 million valuation, and now Facebook is about to go public at a valuation approaching $100 billion.
Pinterest is based on a single incredibly simple idea. You find photos you like and "pin" them to a digital pinboard. You install a "Pin It" button in your Web browser, and when you see a photo you like, you click the button and send it to your Pinterest page. You can create multiple categories, like "Dishes I Want to Cook" or "Vacation Ideas." Then you can spend countless hours …