Technologizer

Glimpse: A Facebook-Powered Pinterest Clone Without the Human Feel

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

Pinterest, which lets you collect and share images and links from around the web, is quirky, addictive — and wildly popular. So it’s not surprising that it’s also proving to be influential. It sure influenced Glimpse, a new Facebook app being launched by shopping search engine TheFind.

Like Pinterest, Glimpse lets you peruse a never-ending grid of pictures of stuff that other folks like — particularly items at shopping sites. But TheFind hasn’t built a new system that lets people choose what to share. Instead, items show up in Glimpse because people clicked Facebook’s Like button to express approval of them, either on Facebook itself or elsewhere on the web. (According to TheFind, 70 percent of major shopping sites put Like buttons on their pages; its index includes products from 200,000 online stores.)

Glimpse does let you organize your Likes into catalogs, which are similar to Pinterest pinboards. But it’s not a social network unto itself: it’s a reflection of the tastes of the members of Facebook, the world’s largest social network. TheFind plans to make money by collecting affiliate fees when users click through to shopping sites to buy items they spotted on Glimpse.

The company says that it personalizes what it shows on Glimpse to fit each user, and I did notice that it showed me men’s clothing and accessories — mostly, although I also got some random women’s shoes — which it apparently did after using my Facebook information to determine that I am indeed a guy. (My wife got photos from many of the same online stores, but of women’s items.)

But while Pinterest is so much fun because it’s so clearly based on the preferences and passions of large numbers of idiosyncratic individual human beings, the Glimpse that I experienced felt both generic and random. When I looked at the default catalog of stuff after I logged in, Victoria’s Secret was there — and with 18 million Facebook likes, it certainly qualifies as popular. It wasn’t a link to anything specific on Victoria’s Secret, though, just one link to the site in its entirety.

The catalog also included a pair of shoes that had only been Liked once — and only by the online shoe store that was selling them. How that qualifies as sufficient reason to put that footwear into Glimpse, I’m not sure.

In between Victoria’s Secret and that pair of shoes were scads of items that had been liked by someone — often lots of someones. But most of them weren’t intriguing, at least to me, and the selection didn’t feel like it had any particular organizing principle. It was neither engagingly eclectic, like Pinterest, nor comprehensive, like TheFind itself. (You can search Glimpse for stores and brands, but not for specific types of products such as “iPad stands.”)

It may be difficult to gauge Glimpse’s potential based on using it on launch day. As more people begin to use the app, it could get better at deciding what to show. It seemed to be suffering from some technical hiccups, too: at one point, when I clicked on a link to Carter’s clothing, it said that nobody had Liked any Carter’s products — and then a couple of minutes later, it had plenty of items. And I may be a worst-case scenario as far as potential users go: I don’t think I’ve ever bought an item of clothing online, ever.

Then again, I get a kick out of browsing Pinterest, even though most of what I see there are items I’d never buy, mostly chosen by women I don’t know. That site just has a human touch that’s engaging. Glimpse doesn’t. But if TheFind can make more sophisticated use of all that data about what people like on Facebook, its new service might evolve into something that’s interesting not because it’s similar to Pinterest, but because it’s different.

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