After vilifying Pinterest for employing an affiliate link tracking program without clearly notifying users, we decided it was probably important to check out how the many Pinterest clones and alternatives out there were operating their sites.
First, a brief explanation of providing information about this tool. Basically, the Federal Trade Commission requires that websites are transparent about all their affiliate relations — users must be notified in some way that links on a site are tied elsewhere, and that the site in questioned is being commissioned for this link if it results in a purchase.
WeHeartIt is arguably the most popular Pinterest alternative. Upon visiting the site, you’ll immediately notice that it has advertisements on the sidebar, so you should probably be tipped off that nothing is being shoved under the rug here.
In the platform’s privacy section, there’s also a link explaining it uses VigLink to monetize links on its site. Click on that link and you’re sent straight to this disclaimer:
“FTC Disclosure – Readers: The site that brought you here uses VigLink to automatically affiliate their commercial links. They’ve linked to this page because they want you to know that they sometimes get paid if you click one of those links and purchase a product or service. Regardless of this potential revenue, unless stated otherwise, the site only recommends products or services they use personally.”
Unfortunately, WeHeartIt is among the minority in how clear it makes this policy. Bonus points for transparency.
We found an article from last year about Thingd, the company name behind TheFancy. According to the article, Thingd planned to use affiliate feed to create profit from its platform. “Thingd would share the affiliate fees if links leads to a purchase,” says SF Gate. “The company could also help private buyers and sellers of secondhand goods find each other and take a cut of the transactions (a la eBay).”
This tech and gadget-focused site follows TheFancy’s cue and includes its affiliates in its definition, then later also talks about using a third party site for credit card transactions. It’s not the most obvious way to explain affiliate linking, but at least you know there’s e-shopping going on here.
We inspected the photos linking to the site where you could purchase items, and found that VigLink was also being used, the same service that WeHeartIt uses. However, Curisma doesn’t have the same straight-forward notice that WeHeartIt does.
The recently launched Minglewing (from the privacy-focused minds of Facebook alternative Anybeat) takes heavy cues from Pinterest. Don’t bother looking through its TOS or privacy policies for affiliate linking admissions though, because the site doesn’t use them.
When asked, team member Brad Seraphin replied, “No, we don’t do anything like that on any of our sites.” Minglewing does vary from Pinterest, however, being as it’s more of a visual discussion room than a product referencing service.