The proliferation of Pinterest-like sites tells me that Pinterest has tapped into something basic, a desire to share images more easily and with more focused purpose than the traditional photo-sharing sites. Since Pinterest has become the social service du jour, a number of other sites that duplicate the fundamental idea—collections of large easy-to-share images—have sprung up.

I’m regularly directed to Gentlemint, described as “Pinterest for men,” despite the fact that a growing number of men now have a Pinterest presence. Chill is a video bookmarking site that lets you create pinboard-like views of the videos you want to share; a collection of a user’s videos looks just like a Pinterest board. (Nearly 7,000 people are following Chad Ochocinco’s Chill collection.) We Heart It lets you set up “inspiration galleries.” Vi.sualize.us lets you bookmark pictures that are displayed Pinterest style. Jux expands images to fill the page edge-to-edge.

We can expect more of these sites to appear. Yes, in part, it’s jumping on the bandwagon. But Pinterest’s success at surfacing our desire to collect and share has kickstarted a new category of social site. While Pinterest may be the first to really capture the public’s imagination, new spins on the concept are inevitable.

Pinterest got ahead of its first real challenge—cries of copyright violation—by releasing code site owners can use that prevents people from pinning images from their pages. (It works much the same way robots.txt does in keeping search engine spiders from crawling your site.) For most of us, though, having our stuff pinned is gratifying and, for many, profitable. Given the high traffic retailers and others are getting from Pinterest and the low cost of entry, most organizations would be thrilled to have their content appear on pinboards with names like “Stuff I Want.”

Some of those organizations may be disappointed to find those images aren’t appearing. And it could be their own fault.

To generate some buzz around a conference I’m speaking at in April, I wrote a blog post about it, then pinned the post; the conference badge—which I had included in the post—became the image on a board I created called “Conferences Where I’m Speaking.” Next, I went to the site of another conference on my schedule, added the URL, but got this message:

No Large Images Found

I didn’t think that could be right; there were plenty of images on the page. I tried the sites of some other conferences and got the same result. One gave me a few images, but not the prominent conference logo. So I started searching for a solution. I didn’t find much until I found the question asked on Quora, with an answer from Justin Edmund, a Pinterest product designer. Edmund went above-and-beyond, providing a detailed workaround for getting images onto the site. But it was the reasons the images weren’t found that captured my attention:

  • You could also be looking at a page whose images have been loaded in via Flash, and if so, unfortunately there is no image file (JPG, GIF, PNG) for us to add to Pinterest. You can always screenshot your image and upload it manually if you really want to pin it.
  • The most common explanation is that the website is using Javascript to load the images into the page. Those images aren’t necessarily present in the DOM, so when the bookmarklet goes to look for images, it doesn’t find anything. Due to the nature of Javascript, there’s not much that we can do about this from a technical standpoint at this time.

What this means, ultimately, is that organizations that want their content pinned will need to revisit the means by which images are added to their content. Call it Image Pinning Optimization (IPO). (Or don’t. That’s dumb.) But assuming your images can be pinned could be a costly mistake.

Have you discovered that your images aren’t pinnable? What changes are you planning to address the problem?