Should Facebook Acquire Pinterest or Path?

Shortly after Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, there was some speculation that Pinterest might be next on its list.  But when AllThingsD broke the news that Path had raised $40 million from Redpoint Ventures and other investors, the attention turned to Path.  As a fan of every social network in this paragraph, I would speculate (wildly) that Path is a better candidate for Facebook than Pinterest. Here’s why.

When I discovered Path, I was immediately drawn to the clean layout of the mobile app, much like I was drawn to Facebook when it first came out with white walls instead of the Flash-ridden sparkle fests I saw on MySpace.

To this day I’m still an avid Facebook user (and a secret hanger-on to MySpace), but I have to admit that the mobile experience could be better.

Instagram’s mobile app for sharing photos was not only functional, but it also stood to improve the piles of terrible pictures that Facebook users inflict on their friends every day. (In this case I blame the friends, not the Facebook). Crop, filter, or delete has always been my mantra, and Instagram is one of those apps that make it possible to hide my shame.

Pinterest doesn’t have much to offer Facebook in this arena, but it could radically improve e-commerce for the site.  Toward this end, Facebook has already acquired Tagtile, a mobile loyalty card system that connects identity with purchase history.

There is also an app called Tabfusion that will make your Timeline look more like a Pinterest board. The problem with Facebook’s photos (aesthetics notwithstanding) is that they are highly personal and usually private. The last thing I want to see when I log into my Facebook account is a wall o’ pictures featuring other people’s sandwiches and a grotesque montage of me hunched over wedding cake.

On Pinterest, I want to look at something more beautiful than that. I might make a comment or repin something from a friend’s board, but I’m more often engaged in planning a project I’m working on or making a wish list. It’s about objects, not friends.

When I log into Facebook, I’m there to hang out with people. This is why Instagram, which people use to photograph their lives, worked for Facebook in a way that, personally, I don’t think Pinterest ever will.

Maybe Google could buy Pinterest: they’re great at e-commerce and even though they’ve been working on making Google+ a little prettier, the site still feels more like a collection of amazing tools than a social network.  Pinterest has at least 10.4 million users to add to the pot.

But Pinterest might not need a sponsor.  There’s a reason it stands behind Facebook and Twitter as the third largest network in the U.S. The bookmarking site is more flexible than niche networks like Polyvore and Fancy; and even though it attracts beautiful designs, it requires no artistic talent to use.

With Path, I could see the mobile app fitting into a range of other products that Facebook already has. There’s the Timeline to track your activities and milestones, the Ticker to show what’s happening in your network right now, and Path could chart your physical location throughout the day. Path recently announced Nike as its first API partner – you can track yourself on a race and share it with friends.

Path might also hang back and wait for the Instagram backlash to direct some protesters their way. Although Path limits its members to 150 friends each, it’s no more private than Facebook. In fact, because Path integrates with Facebook, users can’t hide from their old friends.  I doubt that model will last once the service hits critical mass.

Even with a smaller network of 2 million users, Path is estimated to be worth $250 million, with Pinterest trailing behind at $200 million.

Instagram was valued at $500 million when Facebook swooped in and bought it for twice the price. According to the New York Times, Twitter had also expressed in interest in buying the company, which may have created a bidding war between the two networks.

Neither Pinterest nor Path seem to be generating loads of revenue, but neither was Instagram. And Pinterest already has a growing community of publishers and brands that are more than happy to give the shoppers and DIY enthusiasts who flock to the site for inspiration something to look at.

Whether either of these sites will choose Facebook remains to be seen.

Image by Treenoot via Shutterstock.

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