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As Pinterest positions itself to be the new Tumblr -- or better yet, Facebook -- it's about time we figured out what exactly this new-ish social network does.  We say -ish because the network debuted around Thanksgiving 2009. Yet, it didn't gain relevance until it went "viral," as TechCrunch put it, and jumped from 40,000 unique visitors a month to 3.2 million in one year. The site's still invite-only -- even with the buzz. But we snagged ourselves an invite and took a look around. 

What Is Pinterest?

The site has a similar function to Tumblr, providing a venue to showcase neat found-items from around the web. Though, Pinterest is all about curation, whereas Tumblr encourages original content creation -- Pinterest doesn't have any "Text" boxes, really. And unlike Tumblr's chronological blogroll format, Pinterest displays the photos, videos, products and other "beautiful things" on a virtual pinboard, as you can see below. Here we have the Pinboard of all the "Pinners" we follow -- a list of people Pinterest selected for us upon signing up for the site -- kind of like a prettier, easier to read Tumblr homepage. 

This homepage board (above) is just an amalgamation of personal Pinboards from individual users. The user Pinboards have themes and look like ours below, for which we chose the default theme "Products I Love." 

Users can have multiple Pinboards and each would theoretically have a different theme. The site is all about showcasing one's taste. Pinterest suggests users use these e-cork boards for planning weddings and saving favorite recipes. We came across more abstract ones, too, like funny things and words. No matter what the theme, this is a venue to prove one's Internet prowess. But isn't that what all Internet socializing is about? 

How to Use Pinterest

Pinterest also reminds us of Tumblr in the way users interact with each other on the site. If a Pinner -- that sounds much more goth than we'd like -- comes across a post they like, they can either "like" or "repin" it on one of their Pinboards -- just like on Tumblr. The icons, which show up by hovering over the item, even have the same font and look. 

The way users post from outside sites, however, is much easier than Tumbling, however. Upon signing up for the site, Pinners add a "pin it" button to their toolbar and simply click it when they want to Pin a cool Internet thing, like we did with our Tea Cup Pig, below.


Here's where the original content making part comes in. When adding baby pigs, or whatever, to the Pinboard, Pinterest prompts users to describe the item in that box above where we wrote "baby!" After using the "pin it" button, the item will show up on the Pinner's Pinboard of choice. 

This video below describes how to install the "Pin it" button, though it's as easy as dragging it to the browser toolbar. 

How to Get Pinterest

Like we said, for now it's invite-only. Those eager to get Pinning can request an invite from Pinterest. Or, if you know a hip, ahead-of-the-game Pinner, that person can send an invite. Happy Pinning. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.