For a week this summer, Pinterest's design and engineering teams huddled to conceptualize, design, and build an experimental new web browser intended to increase the volume and relevance of content posted to its platform.
The browser, currently live in Japan, supports normal browsing but contains a special feature: When a Pinterest user wants to pin images from a site they’re visiting in the browser, they can hit a button that strips out everything but the images from the web page they’re on, adds share buttons, and creates a quick route to pin these images to the platform.
The browser, called the “Save Tab,” lives within Pinterest’s main app and has been active for a few months. Outside of its special abilities, the tab is a functional browser built on WebKit, the layout engine used in Apple's Safari.
“It’s really [about] using Pinterest as a jumping-off point to discover new content that may or may not be on Pinterest yet,” Pinterest product head Jack Chou told BuzzFeed News. "That’s the unique thing.”
Pinterest, according to its own figures, recently reached 100 million monthly active users -- up from 70 million in 2014. The Save Tab is part of the company’s effort to expand internationally with products such as localized search, which presents region-specific results when users search Pinterest around the world.
The Save Tab could boost Pinterest’s international expansion efforts by increasing the amount of local content posted to the platform. Local content is critical for Pinterest, as a board of recipes in London could be entirely different from another board in Tokyo. Even within the U.S., a board of clothing in New York might be indistinguishable from one in Seattle.
"Not every Silicon Valley company is thinking about growth in terms of local markets,” Chou said. "We definitely are because of how large a role content plays in Pinterest."
"In addition to building the user base, we also want those users to help shape the content that other users in Japan see on Pinterest,” he added.
The Save Tab also suggests trending local sites to browse and pin from. These sites, Chou said, don’t pay any money to Pinterest to be featured. But it is easy to see a promoted placement developing there, thanks to the significant effect the pinning and repinning of images can have on publisher traffic.
Promoted opportunities could especially be interesting if retail stores get involved, where the browser could populate buyable pins when someone finds a page on a retailer site they want to pin from. Currently, buyable pins are only available in the U.S., so the test hasn’t encountered that scenario yet.
Sites suggested within the Save Tab are chosen primarily based on where Japanese pinners save original content from. Pinterest is also picking out some Japanese sites whose content is new to the platform.
Keith Bormuth, a lead designer at Pinterest who spearheaded design for the project, said that the company saw people screenshotting and saving Instagram photos with the intention of sharing them on Pinterest, and developed the Save Tab to create a more natural way for them to do it. “These [websites]," he said, "have really rich content where we can help pinners find things that they may love and bring into the system."