Dear Pinterest

Dear Pinterest, what have you done?

I've been a Pinterest member since May 2011. I don't do angry user. FB updates, I don't care. Instagram terms and conditions, I don't care. iOS 7, I'll get used to it. You get the point.

But this one gets under my skin. Pinterest is "planning for the future [of] promoting pins." Planning could mean any number of things, but in this case, it means that Pinterest members now enjoy a large dumping of non-friend recommended pins in their social feeds. See below.

At a glance: Wow, there's some interesting stuff in there, but something seems a bit off. Wait, I don't know any of these people. Not a single one. Scrolling to the next set of pins—the same is true. Rinse. Repeat. Where did my friends go?

In short, Pinterest is practicing advertising and passing it off as social. It goes beyond the Facebook "your friend likes this" advertising into the "some random stranger posted this to a board that also has something you posted" with a disclaimer so small and often off the page that it takes even the savviest users a few moments of head-scratching to figure out what's invading their feed. And once that user has figured out that a foreign agent has been introduced to the trusted feed, it takes two clicks to remove the item*. That's an eternity in finger-time.

*Removed items don't die easily, and might resurface once enough time has passed.

I get it. Companies need to advertise. I don't mind ads. It's the cost of using a service for free. What I mind is the sneak-approach. Friends are sacred. Facebook has a hard enough time selling people on things their friends like, much less disguising advertising to look like friends' posts in users' timelines.

What's even more mind-boggling is that Pinterest has an abundance of users who enjoy exploration. We spend hours looking at "design" and "gardening" not searching for anything in particular. This is the opportunity! Serve up recommended items here, where I'm browsing hoping to find that perfect product I had no idea existed but desperately need.

But maybe that was too easy or obvious. Instead, I now find myself now looking for who pinned rather than what was pinned—bad news for a content aggregation site.