Pinterest wants to help its users find what they are looking for even if they don’t know what exactly that is. The company’s solution, Guided Search, is a predictive search engine powered by social curation.
Announced last night at Pinterest’s San Francisco headquarters, Guided Search was presented by CEO Ben Silbermann as a breakthrough for people exploring Pinterest, “the world’s largest human created collection of things.”
Regular search is great — the most amazing invention, Silbermann said — but it’s best for answering specific questions. Users of Pinterest need something better to sift through the billions of pieces of content on the visual social bookmarking site.
“Search until now has been based on information retrieval, factual questions, factual answers,” Silbermann said. “At Pinterest we want to take a step back and think what if it was different. Pinterest after all is about discovering things that you didn’t even know are out there.
“And so we decided let’s build a search engine that’s more about exploration, that’s more about discovery, that’s more about teaching about your tastes and giving you options to explore than it is about giving you an ordered list.”
‘It’s Such A Letdown’
Silbermann cited an example of a standard web search for living room chairs. “So you type in living room chairs in the great search engine and here’s what you get back,” he said. “You get ads on the right, ads on the top, a link to Overstock.com. It’s such a letdown.”
By contrast in Guided Search, Silbermann said, after a few taps on the Pinterest mobile app “instantly across the top I start to see possibilities — DIY, repurposed, wood, red, blue, living room, sitting room. And anything that catches my eye it’s really easy for me to touch it and tap it and see those search results.”
Pinterest has grown rapidly in the four years since its launch and seems to be accelerating. Silbermann said last night that it has more than 750 million Pin boards and more than 30 billion individual Pins, figures that have grown 50% in the last six months.
And because 75% of Pinterest usage is on mobile devices, the company is focusing on mobile development. Guided Search is a mobile only product, released within updated iOS and Android apps in the Apple and Google Play stores last night. A desktop version will come later, but no timetable was given.
The mobile focus was a strong thread throughout the creation of Guided Search, said software engineer Naveen Gavini. Pinterest aimed to minimize typing by improving autocomplete and giving each suggestion a compelling visual representation. They made the search bar more prominent and added a new visual parasol of guides directly below it.
The query architecture allows for adding and removing search terms, giving users the ability to modify searches without starting from scratch. “By quickly allowing you to remove and add terms,” Gavini said, “it allows you to change your search where ever you are.”
Relating The Whole World
Pinterest announced two other changes to its service during the event: the ability for users to create custom categories beyond the 32 that Pinterest created at launch in March 2010 and improvements in the Related Pin feature.
Now more than 90% of Pins across the network have Related Pins associated with them. And the quality of those related items is better, Silbermann said, pointing to 20% more Pins from related content in the last six months.
“We are trying to do something fundamentally different,” he said. “We are trying to provide a recommendation on every single object in the world, whether it’s a beautiful photo, whether it’s a workout routine, whether it’s an article, we want to help you find things that are relevant to you.”
Read more details on the Pinterest blog.
Here’s a video demo of Guided Search: