Image search and discovery are at the center of the user experience.
In its early days, Pinterest was described as a “social scrapbooking” or photo-sharing site. CEO Ben Silbermann has called it a “catalog of ideas.” But the company has generally shunned the “social network” label.
Whatever else it is, Pinterest is increasingly becoming an image search engine. Accordingly, the company announced the hiring of Randy Keller, who until last month was a senior engineer working on Google image search.
Keller was at Google for roughly a decade and was part of the Image Search Quality team. His Linkedin profile says he led a team “of 40 engineers . . . and was responsible for image search ranking, related images, guided search efforts and new emerging features like ‘Where to Buy’ and images appearing on web search.”
Pinterest provided a quote from Keller about why he’s joining the company:
Pinterest is the most exciting opportunity in visual discovery today, and I look forward to contributing my expertise in image search quality and ranking to the team responsible for helping millions of people discovery billions of ideas every day. Pinterest’s unprecedented data set presents new opportunities to build the next generation of search that’s personalized to each person on Pinterest.
Pinterest has been doing interesting and sophisticated things with visual search and discovery for the past several years. This week, Pinterest launched smartphone-camera based search tool Lens:
Just point Lens at a pair of shoes, then tap to see related styles or even ideas for what else to wear them with. Or try it on a table to find similar designs, and even other furniture from the same era. You can also use Lens with food. Just point it at broccoli or a pomegranate to see what recipes come up. Patterns and colors can also lead you in fun, interesting or even just plain weird new directions.
Many companies over the past decade have unsuccessfully sought to introduce similar visual search and shopping tools. Amazon has a similar tool in its mobile app; however it has de-emphasized the capability. Pinterest may be the first company able to mainstream camera-based product search.
Two years ago, the company announced that 80 percent of its traffic came from mobile devices.