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Pinterest Affiliate Links

09 Feb 2012

Pinterest, which seems to be the new social network of interest now that Google+ is ticking away nicely in the background, has been found to be putting affiliate code in links. There hasn’t been what you’d call uproar over it, but there are people calling it a scam.

Pinterest is free. It’s invitation only, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of limitation on the number of people you can invite. So the only cost to the user is the time to get an invitation, and the time to actually make use of it. It has no advertising, and has a nice clean interface. I’m not always too impressed with the way it processes information, but I recognise the symptoms as being a consequence of load-balancing, and since they’re growing quickly, that’s entirely forgivable.

However, they have to make money somehow, and the usual social media approach of selling the users’ demographic data (or indirect access to it) isn’t always viewed favourably. So what they’ve done is sign up for every affiliate program they can find, and insert their affiliate code into links where possible. Personally, I don’t see a problem with this.

The issue, however, seems to be that some users were using their own affiliate codes in links, and depending on the strong “re-pin” effect in Pinterest to spread it around and make them some money. There’s a bit of panic going on that those affiliate codes are being replaced with Pinterest’s. Experiments by Joel Garcia show this is not the case. To be honest, that seems downright generous on Pinterest’s part. People posting affiliate links there are doing so on a free service, and not paying anything for hosting or promotion.

So the issue seems to be around disclosure. I suppose it’s a fair point, but in comparison to what Facebook are in the general habit of doing with user data, it seems a pretty minor thing on Pinterest’s part. It’s definitely not worth uproar.

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