It happens while you sleep. One night, you’re visiting your favorite website. Then, you wake up, visit it again, and you can’t recognize it anymore. Did you enter the URL correctly? It’s not your imagination: your favorite site has been turned into yet another Pinterest clone!
Shut down your laptop, run for the hills, and stock up on Smirnoff as you wait out this Pinterestpocalypse. The success of Pinterest, amazing and deserved as it is, has inspired many sites old and new to mimic its design. That’s making all internet users victims of Pinterest’s success.
This is a new era for mimicry. During Web 1.0, there was little attention to design at all, and sites tended to borrow each other’s features. Then with Web 2.0, many major sites and startups all conformed to a number of the same design elements. With Pinterest, the degree of mimicry is usually what you expect when a site like Facebook gets big in the U.S., and then nearly identical sites pop up in China and Russia. American companies are now so brazen that dozens seem to have collectively decided to copy Pinterest’s design and functionality with absolutely no concern of diluting their own properties in the process.
There are many forms of Pinterest cloning. Here are six ways this is happening now:
Existing properties relaunching as Pinterest clones: Sadly, this has happened to a couple of my favorite sites. While I’ve never been the target audience for StyleCaster, I have always loved their work, but their redesign is so reminiscent of Pinterest that I can’t get past the new homepage. Then there’s bo.lt, a company I’ve always found innovative and often found controversial. I tried out their new beta site, which looks even more like Pinterest than the background of the new bo.lt homepage implies. I asked the fun-loving crew there if it was a practical joke mocking Pinterest clones. It isn’t. Given my deep admiration for the teams at both companies, I can only hope that the Pinterest emulation pays off.
Pinterest clones that encourage sharing inspiring images: We Heart It says that you should “create your own inspiration gallery today,” and then encourages you to “start hearting and sharing your favorite images.” Heart should never be a verb, unless you’re an Oberlin alumnus living in Brooklyn who is trying too hard to be ironic. We Heart It also says to sign in with Facebook or Twitter, or “join manually.” I think it’d be fun to join manually, like writing out a membership application on a typewriter, or with a pencil and paper, and then submitting it through the mail. How much more selective would you be with registering for sites if you had to join manually?
Pinterest clones even more directly focused on shopping: Have to Have says “save time and money.” The Fancy says “unlock crazy good deals.” Both scream, “We’re too tired to be original.” Pinterest already makes it easy to buy many of the products shared through its site, so as Pinterest forges ahead with a commercial model, these sites will be even less relevant.
Pinterest clones so overtly derivative that a freshman college student interning for an ambulance chaser could draft the cease-and-desist letter to shut them down: For Exhibit A, I present Pinspire. This is where you “discover, collect and share your inspirations.” They’ve cloned Pinterest’s functionality, design, and even its name. And there’s absolutely no sign of shame in doing so. I have to give them credit for coming up with even more “pin” words, though. For instance, you can earn “Pinpoints” when you “pin, and repin, like, and comment on pins and more.” Are these people insane? The only thing that offends me more is that the spelling and grammar are so good that it’s clear someone literate is behind this site.
Pinterest clones that are just for men: Since Pinterest’s audience is disproportionately female, a number of people independently arrived at the same idea: men would love the site if only it was filled with condescending, testosterone-heavy stereotypes from the 1980s. At MANteresting, you “share manly things with the community.” When I visited, the homepage featured a photo of “Mad Men” dolls. Guys who think playing with dolls is too masculine to share on Pinterest are probably the same ones reading “The Help” because “The Hunger Games” is too feministic for them. Another clone is Dartitup, which men are supposed to use “to collect ideas for everything from bachelor parties to bachelor pads, sports, glutinous food and all of life's glorious wonders.” Dante probably envisioned a region of hell for copy this bad. It’s also unintentionally hilarious on multiple levels. I’m familiar with the stereotype of men being gluttonous, but I had no clue that guys enjoyed sticky, viscous food, as this copy suggests.
Pornographic Pinterest clones: Pinterest is a dangerous site. During a talk last fall to 200 of my agency’s most important clients and all of our senior management, I inadvertently showed a Pinterest screen capture that included a very artistic and very nude female. I’ll never forget the dinner afterward, when a client asked, “So what was up with the naked chick?” Despite my firsthand education with the steamy side of Pinterest, the site is way too tame for some people, so there are pornographic Pinterest clones like Snatchly (the landing page at snatchly.com is mostly safe for work, if you’re curious). This is the one genre of cloning that should be condoned, if not encouraged. After all, the mass market has spent years stealing digital innovations popularized by the porn industry, including live chat, streaming video, and freemium online content models. It’s about time the broader digital media industry can return the favor to pornographers.
The future for Pinterest clones is questionable. Pinterest is just getting started, but the hype around it will settle. By the time that happens, Pinterest will need to focus even more on growing its mobile audience, and its mobile app presents a far more straightforward user interface, given screen size limitations and other factors. The clones won’t disappear, though. Some will adapt and clone whatever Pinterest becomes, some will morph into whatever internet users glom on to next, and -- one hopes -- some will quietly fade away, as the horrors of the Pinterestpocalypse recede.