Tonight I became a material witness in a Pinterest debate on Facebook started by Google’s Don Dodge, which ultimately ended up with a screenshot of my inbox on The Next Web. Don is Google’s Developer advocate, and I have a startup, so I befriended him on Facebook a while back. I jumped into the debate on his post with my screenshot.
To boil it down from my viewpoint, it appears that Pinterest, which has now been dubbed the fastest growing site in the history of the Internet, has been using some misleading email practices. What seems to be happening is that when one of your Facebook friends joins Pinterest, it automatically triggers an email to be sent to you saying that friend is now “following” you on Pinterest. My guess is to get you to come back to the site and follow that person, and ultimately spend more time on the site because I’m thinking: “Hey, more friends are on Pinterest! Sweet!” But what was found by Don Dodge, myself and many others, was that we never explicitly followed these people, yet emails were sent to friends saying that we did. It’s just misleading, and a breach of users’ trust. They seem to be trolling their users for lack of a better term.
Ultimately this ‘fakeout’ may be one of the mechanisms that has helped Pinterest grow so big so fast, and that’s why it really feels shady. Couple that with the other scandal that revealed them to be using affiliate link clickjacking for a revenue source on people’s product ‘pins’ and it starts feeling really shady to users who were in the dark even though it was in their Terms of Service. Maybe it’s not Zynga Scamville, Groupon IPO accounting, or Yelp! alleged extortion shady, but it looks bad nonetheless.
Now I want to say that I’m not a Pinterest hater. I see the appeal of the site even through the jokes about it being a site where you waste tons of time, that it only appeals to middle age, midwestern housewives blah, blah blah. The bottom line is that it’s a nice place or way to organize and share links about your interests. It’s feels like what Del.icio.us should have become, but with a better name, prettier design and a focus on sharing. It’s getting huge and driving alot of traffic to people’s sites. And that is great. But as Brad states in the TNW post, these SPAM, and linkjacking issues need to be addressed ASAP to make their users happy. I have not left Pinterest. I’ve only pinned a few things yet and really wanted to just check the site out. I have to know the new hot technology. But for now I have turned off all email notifications on my end. But I do wonder if they’re still sending fake emails to my friends on my behalf?