Social networks have become very beautiful walled gardens, but some of them remain more secluded and gated than others. Take for example Pinterest, whose treasure trove of user data remains almost like an unattainable holy grail for all but a select few of marketers. That changes today, however, as Pinterest announces the existence of API for third-party developers. But don’t go dancing around yet, expecting some sort of Pinterest clients or whatnot to come gushing forth. It’s still a somewhat exclusive party, just with a few more guests invited.
Pinterest has so far resisted the trend to open up its doors wide open to third party developers, perhaps much to the dismay of many who are salivating over the the forbidden fruit of its user data. And, to some extent, Pinterest has good reason not to do so. Seeing the experience, and the failures, of giants like Facebook and Twitter, it made more sense for Pinterest to come from the opposite direction: keep things closed and only let people in rather slowly and in limited numbers. For one, it prevents possible abuse of API that could not only ruin Pinterest’s reputation but also put its users at risk. For another, it discourages Pintereest from over-promising API features only to have to pare them back when things get out of hand.
That said, Pinterest actually recently opened its door just a wee bit to let in marketers in, because, well, that’s where the money flows. But now it’s opening it a bit wider to let any developer in. Well, almost anyone. There’s still a waiting queue, a whitelist rather, of who can join in, but the invitation is meant for the public. Access to Pintertest data, however, is still limited, mostly to what is already publicly available from users’ profiles anyway. To an extent, Pinterest wants developers to focus more on what they can do with the data to benefit users, rather than how they can mine Pinterest’s database. Some examples that Pinterest offer are a automated shopping lists for recipes or booking services for travel wishlists.
Pinterest’s data is of particular interest to third parties because of the very nature of the data. They are, for one, more inspirational, more abstract, and more future-oriented than interest graphs from either Facebook or Twitter. They also tend to be more permanent, with data being preserved on the Internet for indeterminate amounts of time. That said, we have yet to see the first fruits of this new developer platform and cannot yet judge if they will be equally Pinteresting as the social network itself.