Pinterest today introduced a new search feature that’s made with mobile phones and tablets in mind. It’s built to be manipulated with swipes rather than typing, and it’s based on open-ended discovery rather than finding specific things.
Of course, Pinterest’s version of search is limited to what’s already been posted on Pinterest.
But that’s actually a whole lot of stuff. There are now 30 billion pins in Pinterest, with 750 million pinboards, and 100,000 retailers posting their products.
If that list of stats made your eyes blur, how about: Pinterest’s total number of pins has increased 50 percent in the past six months.
“It’s the world’s largest collection of objects,” said CEO Ben Silbermann at an event at his company’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday night. And he noted that Pinterest has spent much of the past year making those “objects” more than just pretty pictures — they are now loaded with links to purchase information, movie ratings, GPS locations, related pins and other information.
Silbermann called the event to roll out a new Pinterest product called “Guided Search” for Android and iPhone in English.
With Guided Search, when a Pinterest user enters a topic, pins start showing up below a carousel of suggestions for ways to narrow the search down.
So if you type “hairstyle,” Pinterest might suggest “medium-length hair” and then “2013″ and then “bangs.” Tap on each of those words to add it to your search and you’ll get closer and closer to your next haircut inspiration.
The point is to help people lead themselves to where they want to go, Silbermann said.
“Guided search will help you discover things when you didn’t know how to ask the question in the first place,” he explained.
Other companies who do search — Google, Bing, etc. — use the same language to talk about the future of search. But they generally mean they are using personalization based on learning a user’s habits and anticipating what they might want to know.
Silbermann is instead talking about a sort of open-ended search for inspiration — something to buy, something to make, somewhere to go.
“Search until now has been really focused on information retrieval. Factual questions, factual answers,” he said. “So we took a step back and said let’s build a search engine that’s more about exploration, that’s more about discovery.”
The other thing that’s significant about Pinterest’s approach to search is that it’s all about mobile. The company said the feature would eventually hit the Web, but it’s only available on mobile now. Guided Search is designed to be manipulated with one hand, and to minimize typing in favor of tapping and swiping.
That’s in keeping with the way people use Pinterest — the majority of its traffic has been mobile for nearly two years.