Pinterest Improves Its Search Engine Again With Smarter Place Search

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Yep, Pinterest is becoming a search engine. Following this week’s news about the arrival of a feature called “Guided Search” on the web, Pinterest today says it’s now rolling out smarter “Place Search,” too. The changes being introduced will make it easier to map a Pin to a Place Board in just a few clicks on both iOS and web.

This is really about making the Place Search experience “more intuitive,” the company explains on its Engineering Blog.

Previously, Place Search allowed users to search within a city, within the current map view, and globally. But Pinterest says that users were just entering in the “what” (place name) and “where” (location) in the same search box, just like when they were using Pinterest’s site-wide search interface.

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So the company made a few changes. For starters, it’s now using open source geocoder technology written by Foursquare called Twofishes to identify the geographic names in searches. And in the case where there are several places with the same name — for example, Springfield, MO or IL or MA or VA, etc. — it will show you all the possibilities, prompting you to select the appropriate one. Pinterest is using Foursquare place data to help identify the venue, as well.

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The end result is a one-box Place Search interface, where results are returned in a ranked list.

This is an important step, the company points out, “because Pinners will judge the quality of our place search results based on what’s included in this list and whether their intended place appears near the top.”

Or, in other words, Pinterest just became a different way to find places than Google Maps, and it’s based on Foursquare data.

The changes are live now in the Pinterest iOS app and on the web, with Android coming soon. The new search engine will also make it easier to map a Pin to a Place Board — a feature that was first introduced late last year.

Place Pins and Place Search are key areas Pinterest is aiming to get right because of its potential to break out beyond the female demographic, which still heavily dominates Pinterest today. We had heard that Pinterest in April would be announcing a related travel product to take better advantage of its Place Pins feature. That didn’t turn out to be the case at the time, but the rumor itself holds up, generally speaking. Pinterest is focused on bringing more men onto the platform (especially affluent ones), and travel (and Place Pins) can help with that.

Pinterest users are largely pinning places that would be related to travel or the outdoors, it seems, with over 30,000 Pins related to hotels, 20,000 related to the great outdoors in general, and 19,000 of just beaches.

The company says that in the six months since it launched Place Pins, more than 1 billion places have been Pinned, more than 4 million Place Boards created, and more than 300 unique countries and territories are represented.