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Pinterest: An image-sharing Internet sensation

Review: Pinterest, reportedly the fastest-growing website ever, combines the best parts of several social networks.

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Comments tend to be brief. This is primarily a visual feast from every corner of the Web. You'll see pictures of midcentury modern chairs drift by. Dream kitchens. Funky illustrations. Fashionable outfits in urban settings. Pictures of adorable cats and dogs. Aquamarine seas and white sandy beaches. Chocolate-covered brownie ice-cream sandwiches. Treehouses. Occasionally, an offensive image appears, but those seem rare.

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Or you can simply ignore all of that and use Pinterest as an online organization folder for images, articles, blogs, videos, and Web pages. By adding a button to your Web browser, you can pin anything you fancy, as long as the image is large enough.

Pinterest images all link back to the original source, so clicking on a pinned skirt may send you to the re-tailer's website. Realizing the shopping possibilities, and that women outnumber men on Pinterest, re-tailers have taken notice.

Savvy marketers sow their images across the topic pages, potentially directing viewers who pin their latest goods back to their online stores for a purchase.

Although Pinterest is a couple of years old, it is only now enjoying mainstream attention. Similar networks, such as Tumblr or Facebook – with its 800 million users – have trained people to flip through a sea of images. Not only that, but the ubiquity of camera phones and the ease of photography apps such as Instagram have created an endless supply and insatiable appetite for beautiful, hip images.

Yet unlike other social media, Pinterest pinners remain largely impersonal. User profiles often appear without context, void of the details, descriptions, and histories that one finds blasted across other networks.

Links to Facebook or Twitter can provide new visitors with a peek at a person's back story. But primarily, the pinboards speak for themselves.

More and more people are looking for ways to unbind prepackaged goods – magazines, cookbooks, and CDs – and create personalized collections.

Social network users are maturing to the point where they have become not just users and voyeurs, but curators – expertly editing the trails of online information beneath their fingertips into their own forms of stylized expression.

Pinterest is the newest kid on the social media block, and time will tell if its allure keeps the community coming back. Pinterest may go the way of MySpace, Friendster, and plenty of other hit networks that have burst.

But not before the contest for who has the coolest pinboards has been won.

For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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