"It's hard, hard work," said Apu Gupta, Curalate CEO. Despite
Pinterest's lack of a public API, he continued, "We still went
ahead and built this.... The lack of an API in some ways creates an
opportunity for companies to help solve a problem."
APIs -- or application programming interfaces -- are becoming a
crucial part of the digital ecosystem. Put simply, they're the
technologies that allow application developers to build tools for
popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Apple.
Pinterest's decision to hold off on releasing a public API makes
sense, suggested Mr. Gupta. "It's reflective of Pinterest having
the realization that when you provide API access you are allowing
people to build platforms on your platform."
While offering building blocks that could unleash a slew of
services -- and potential headaches -- for Pinterest, the absence
of an API creates obstacles for companies like Curalate. "It's
challenging because with the lack of an API any changes to their
site can affect the way we crawl it." A small layout change to the
site, for example, could disrupt the crawler because it's looking
for particular pieces of information in precise places.
"It creates a challenge that you wouldn't otherwise have," he
said. Still, he said a Pinterest API isn't necessarily a
Pinterest aims to launch new tools for brands and businesses in
the future, according to a Pinterest spokesperson, who said those
"may include analytics or access to an API, and we'll continue to
build things that help businesses and developers get the most out
The use of APIs by thousands of app makers and analytics firms
has increased so much that API management services have sprouted to
assist social platforms in handling the influx of developers that
want to work with their technologies. API management firm Gnip, for
instance, is a conduit to data from Twitter, Tumblr, Hulu, Reddit,
and other sites.
Curalate processes tens of millions of images each day,
examining the pixels in each one to match it against images in its
database to determine what the image is. Unlike tracking
keyword-heavy text-based platforms, image laden sites such as
Pinterest do not have many product SKUs or meta data associated
with them, making for a daunting measurement task. Though people
typically pin product images directly from e-commerce sites that do
include such data, the information is lost and taken out of context
once images of cableknit sweaters and gruyere-laced casseroles are
added to their Pinterest pages.
"When people pin photos they don't use a lot of words," said Mr.
Gupta, "They don't say I love this sweater SKU 12345 #H&M."
Still, brands from retail and luxury to CPG and even energy are
fascinated with the potential of Pinterest and what it can tell
them about what consumers think of their products. For instance,
although many of the largest CPG brands don't have much
representation on Pinterest -- think toothpaste and soap makers --
food brands are big.
Photos from Campbell's recipe site Campbell's Kitchen are popular
with pinners, said Mr. Gupta. The company can use analytics tools
to see how it matches up against competitors, he suggested. For
example, if the data show that people are keen on posting dessert
photos, the classic food brand might want to develop dessert
recipes for its recipe site -- or may realize the sweets recipe
brand is not a direct competitor after all.
Instagram is also popular with brands that not only produce
their own content for the Facebook-owned photo tool but aim to
better understand how consumer-created Instagrams affect their
brands. Curalate will use its recent funding to launch an Instagram
analytics service soon.