Pinterest starts expanding its visual search tools to video

Video has generally been available — and is often shared — on Pinterest, but it hasn’t quite received the same treatment that the company’s traditional content has seen.

Over the next few months, however, that will be changing. Pinterest is starting to test ways to get video running directly on its services, including building a native video player. And beyond that, it’s going to start implementing its visual search tools on those videos, giving the company more data on how to deliver it to users at the right moments.

It’s a big move for Pinterest. A huge swath of online activity consists of mobile video, and that’s only going to get bigger over time. And there are a lot of destinations where creators can share videos, like Facebook and YouTube. Pinterest has generally been interested in video, but hasn’t taken a huge deep dive on it just yet. We’ve seen flashes of their interest, in the likes of products like cinematic pins, but this is going to be a big move going forward.

“Pinterest is the place where people come to discover the things that inspire them or what they want to do in the real world,” Davis said. “From parenting to home decor, it’s a place where you find content you want to interact with in the real world. Whether that’s buying something, or picking up new skills, that’s the central value proposition of Pinterest. Video is just a better way of explaining a lot of things. There’s a reason cooking shows are really popular, it’s more entertaining than just reading an article.”

One of Pinterest’s greatest strengths is its discovery tools. Users come into Pinterest coming from all different points of looking to discover products, whether that’s casual browsing, searching, or in the end collecting pins or going directly in to buy products. By taking the same approach to video, Pinterest will basically unlock that intent in a different online behavior that a lot of other platforms have actively tapped into. But it can use its data in different ways than, say, Facebook, in order to move users closer and closer to potentially buying products.

Giving creators a native video player on Pinterest also helps. Instead of having to send users off the site or deal with tricky embed problems, creators can simply post their content directly to Pinterest and automatically get indexed by these new visual search tools. That can help them continue to build their audience — which generally spans multiple platforms already — with higher-quality, platform-specific experiences.

Part of the problem could involve extracting key frames from a video in order to execute the similar visual searches it has available for photos, video product lead Steve Davis said. But the tech — which exists for photos — has other ways it will be applied to video, he said. It’s not simply applied to traditional visual search, he said.

“For instance, if you’re watching a cooking video and you just run visual algorithms on a couple frames, what you’ll get back is carrots, oven, etc,” he said. “That doesn’t give you an underlying understanding of it’s being a cooking video. But if you stick machine learning on it you can get to those understandings if you have a good tagged set. We think we can create those sets, train our models, understand more holistically what things are about.”

There are obvious commerce implications for something like this, too. In one universe, you might imagine a video demonstrating knife skills, and the ability to buy the knives in question in the video. Pinterest already has a lot of commerce tools in place — and continues to expand them in new ways over time, like implementing visual search into photos users can take with their phones. All this not only gives Pinterest an ability to sell products, it convinces businesses to take Pinterest seriously as a place to get their products in front of users.

The upgrades to visual search on video are getting rolled out over the next few months, as well as the native video player, Davis said.