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Pinterest Is Localizing Search Because Half of Its Users Live Abroad

To live up to its valuation, Pinterest needs to win big outside the U.S.


There are a lot of people living outside the United States, but keeping them as users takes work.

That’s what the people behind visual discovery tool Pinterest are finding as they focus on international expansion. They’re going to start surfacing more local results in other countries so the pins in different cultures and geographies make more sense. At this point, half of Pinterest’s 100 million monthly active users are outside the U.S., so keeping them happy is key.

Pinterest has raised $553 million in funding at an $11 billion valuation. To live up to that number, it needs to win big abroad. It’s not alone. A few other big consumer startups, like Airbnb and Uber, can’t succeed at their outsized valuations unless they’re huge in other countries.

But going outside U.S. borders isn’t an easy endeavor, even for a purely digital service like Pinterest. When asked about the challenges, Pinterest’s head of product Jack Chou told Re/code, “We’re not a pure informational service; we’re trying to capture the tastes of people in the market.”

Tastes — even literal ones — vary from place to place, but Pinterest is flush with American content. When a British person looks for “food” and “chips” on Pinterest, they’re going to be confused by the Lay’s bag that appears — they’re expecting to see steak fries. That’s why localization is key — if Pinterest surfaces pins from British websites first, that person will probably find images that match her cultural expectations.

The localized results will first roll out to France, Germany, Brazil and Spain. “We’re really in touch with the community there, so they can give us feedback,” Chou said. “The hope is to then follow quickly with other countries, but we’re first concerned with creating the best experience for users and growing out from there.”

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