Pinterest to Disable Affiliate Links, Redirects and Tracking on Pins

While Pinterest's official stance is that the recent changes are to enhance the Pinner's experience, there's speculation about the social bookmarking site shoring up its monetization strategy and preparing for IPO.

Pinterest drives a lot of traffic: Throughout 2014 it was second only to Facebook in terms of overall referral traffic. To capitalize on this power, some of Pinterest’s users were taking advantage of affiliate links to generate revenue. Now, Pinterest is going to clamp down on the practice.

The social bookmarking site sent its users an email notifying them that affiliate, redirects and trackers on pins would be automatically removed. The email also noted that users could still participate in paid social media marketing, but they would have to abide by the company’s acceptable use policy.

According to a Pinterest spokesperson who was quoted in the WSJ Digits blog:

We observed affiliate links and redirects causing irrelevant Pins in feeds, broken links and other spammy behavior. We believe this change will enable us to keep the high bar of relevancy and quality Pinners expect from Pinterest.

Another stated reason was that affiliate links were interfering with the metadata associated with “Rich Pins” such as Pinterest’s location sensitive Place Pins.

However with recent speculation about Pinterest’s intent to introduce a buy button, some are wondering if this decision is motivated by a desire to keep all the profits. Lauren Orsini, a contributor for Readwrite draws that very connection:

By retiring user commissions, Pinterest is paving a path to potentially draw commissions for itself on every product recommendation made. Pinterest has told ReadWrite that its primary motive is to make it easy for pinners to find useful, relevant images, but the company has got to be feeling the pressure from its many investors.

A Pinterest spokesperson later reached out to Orsini, stating “This is not about monetization, this is 100% about the Pinner experience and ensuring relevant content on Pinterest.” Still, the talk around a buy button and a forthcoming marketing API indicate that Pinterest is considering it’s monetization plans carefully.

While the change may not be directly related to a buy button, there’s also the possibility that Pinterest is trying to remove spam and useless content from the site before its rumored IPO this year.

The IPO is not yet confirmed, but with a “buy” button potentially on the way, a coming marketing API, and the exclusion of affiliate links, perhaps Pinterest is getting its house in order for the big day.

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