Pinterest’s New Feature Takes the Algorithm Out of Your Feed

The beauty of a site like Pinterest lies in how little you have to do to use it. Choose a few things you're interested in—vegan food, knitting, travel—then kick back and enjoy scrolling through algorithmically generated collections of images. The app uses machine learning to predict what you'll like most, whether it's a new recipe for homemade hummus or a photo of a trendy new hotel in Tel Aviv. Those personalized recommendations get better the more you click, save, and share pins on the platform.

But sometimes, you want to see what you signed up to see, and not what the machines think you might like. So today, Pinterest is introducing a new feed populated only by the people and boards you follow.

The new tab in the Pinterest app.

Pinterest

By clicking on the new "People You Follow" tab, you’ll find a stream of pins from the just people and boards you've chosen to follow on Pinterest—and nothing else. These will show up in reverse-chronological order, with a separate feature to discover related boards and pinners, or unfollow ones that are no longer relevant.

In some ways, a feature like this makes Pinterest feel more social. You can follow along as your best friend populates her "Dream Wedding" board, or watch a stranger in Kentucky filling out her "Dinner Recipes" board. But at its core, Pinterest isn't a social platform; it's a marketplace for ideas. Think of its newest feature more like a super-visual RSS feed than, say, a riff on Twitter. It serves up the content you've subscribed to and presents it in the order it's created.

The update comes at a time when people are straining against algorithmic influence on social media. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat each use algorithms to organize content in users' feeds. This puts the stuff you're supposed to find important above the stuff that was posted most recently, often to the annoyance of users. Facebook and YouTube also rely on algorithms to surface the content they think users want to see—sometimes to dire consequences. On Pinterest, the introduction of a bare-bones "following" feed—in reverse-chronological order, no less—gives users back some control over their own feeds. You see what you want, and that's it.

Pinterest's algorithmically generated home feed will remain the default, just as it's always been. But now, users have a way to take back some of the control over what they're scrolling through. When you've run out of new content from the boards and people you follow, you can always toggle back to the main feed to get more recommendations.

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