New website catering to Black women officially goes mobile.
Taya Coates|Contributing Writer
The online inspiration board app, Pinterest, has grown to have a cult-like following since the launch of its iPhone app in early 2011. Due to its Instagram-like endless scrolling setup and clean interface, Pinterest is the go-to app for digital vision boards. The more images you pin, the more personalized your home feed becomes. Despite its mass success, the company has struggled to serve women of all races. When it comes to searching for pictures, it is difficult to find images of women of color even with the personalized algorithm. For example, it is almost always necessary to type ‘black women’ after a keyword to get the desired results. This extra step creates a sense that the platform is not designed for Black women, as their counterparts do not have to add their race at the end of every search to find images that represent them.
After the company received many complaints, Pinterest began beta testing a skin tone feature in 2018. According to an article by The Verge, Pinterest partnered with a company called ModiFace to develop skin tone reading algorithms. The collaboration resulted in a feature that allows users to pick a skin tone range for searches. This eliminates the extra step of having to type ‘black women’ at the end of the query. There are sixteen shades, featured in four different groups. The technology is not 100% accurate but is a great improvement from the previous model. The range of shades from light to dark makes the app feel more inclusive than it previously had.
To illustrate, in this search for ‘braids’, there is a mix of POC and non-POC in the feed. This is why for ease, users would add the ‘black women’ at the end of the search to eliminate the braiding styles that were not what they were looking for.
With the darkest skin tone filter selected, the results are much different. The feed becomes almost exclusively Black women, eliminating the hassle of the extra step. Pinterest still has a lot of work to do, but this filter is a step in the right direction.
The creators of Melaninterest saw this issue and decided to create a version of the site that created a space for Black women online.
According to the company website, “Melaninterest was created in order to serve our culture online. In today’s day and age, most technology apps have algorithms that do not serve our community. Usually in searches, you have to add “black girl“ and even then the results are underwhelming. We have a solution for that. Melaninterest’s purpose is to create an online directory that allows melaninated individuals a way to easily find content that serves them.”
In September, the tweet “we need a Black Pinterest. i can’t keep typing ‘for Black people’ at the end of everything…” by user @AlettaNevobasi garnered an immense 42K retweets and 165K likes. This led to a large discussion on Twitter about how the company’s algorithm had prejudice undertones. Melaninterest took this opportunity to advertise the company and the word spread simultaneously with the retweets. The company had limited growth due to only having two platforms, a desktop version, and an Android app version. This past Friday, things changed when the company released its iPhone version of the app. Users celebrated the launch on social media, causing the app to reach #23 on the Apple Store Lifestyle chart. If you enjoy Pinterest, check out Melaninterest. The company’s survival depends on users contributing to the app to help it bloom into a large platform!
Download Melaninterest in your app store today!