Pinterest is similar to earlier social image bookmarking systems based on the same principle, such as David Galbraith’s 2005 project Wists. It allows users to save images and categorize them on different boards. They can follow other users’ boards if they have similar tastes. (Or not?) Popular categories are travel, cars, food, film, humor, home design, sports, fashion, and art.

Development of Pinterest began in December 2009, and the site launched as a closed beta in March 2010. The site proceeded to operate in invitation-only open beta.

Silbermann said he personally wrote to the site’s first 5,000 users offering his personal phone number and even meeting with some of its users.

Nine months after launch the website had 10,000 users. Silbermann and a few programmers operated the site out of a small apartment until the summer of 2011.

Early in 2010, the company’s investors and co-founder Ben Silbermann tried to interest a New York-based magazine publishing company in buying Pinterest. The publisher declined to meet with the founders.

When Pinterest’s popularity began to skyrocket in mid-2011, retailers were quick to recognize its potential as a sales driver, giving rise to the phrase “Pinterest commerce,” which, like participatory commerce, has sometimes been abbreviated to “p-commerce.”

Pinterest itself has not yet enabled selling on its site, but retailers continue to run tests to see if they can convert the network’s more than 48 million users to customers. Some retailers, have found that visitors from Pinterest are more likely to make a purchase and to spend more than those referred by other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. (Customers are personally involved w/ product).

Should You Use “P-Commerce”?

No. Not only will you sound like a tool, (? Ratchet or hammer?) There’s a good chance no one will know what you’re talking about.

Related Terms

Social commerce: E-commerce that involves social media, either in driving a customer towards purchase, or involving a customer socially during a transaction (the latter of which is also referred to as participatory commerce).

Pinfluencer: A Pinterest user with a large following, or reach, on the network.

Pinnable: An object, such as a photo or article, that can be pinned to (i.e. bookmarked on) Pinterest.

Mashable composite, image via iStockphoto, ryccio, and logo courtesy of Pinterest.