Pinterest Inc. said on Thursday that it has hit 100 million monthly active users worldwide, sharing for the first time the heft of its user base as observers question whether the image-sharing site is worth the $11 billion valuation investors bestowed on it earlier this year.
The new disclosure comes as the five-year-old company has been working to aggressively expand overseas and grow its young business into the next advertising powerhouse.
Put into perspective, Pinterest’s user base is about a third of the size of Twitter Inc. and a fraction of Facebook Inc.’s 1.5 billion monthly users. Until now, the only way to gauge Pinterest’s size was through third-party estimates. ComScore estimates Pinterest had about 76.2 million unique U.S. visitors in July, up 24% from a year ago, while eMarketer forecast that it would reach .1 million monthly active users in 2015.
Pinterest said about 45% of its users are international.
Given that Pinterest only started generating meaningful revenue this year, one crude way to compare the company with its peers is to look at its equity value per monthly active user. Earlier this year, investors such as Andreessen Horowitz and Goldman Sachs valued the company at $11 billion, more than doubling its previous valuation of less than a year ago.
That puts its valuation per monthly active user at $110, which would be lower than Facebook’s value of $177 per user but higher than Twitter’s $59 per user. Snapchat, which is estimated to have 200 million users, would have a value of about $80 per user.
But the company said it doesn’t want to compete with those social players for ad dollars. Instead, its plan is to go after search advertising budgets that will pit it against Google , the king of search. Over the past few months, the image-bookmarking service has been making the rounds with advertisers trying to persuade them it’s not a social network but rather a place where consumers search for and discover products.
On Pinterest, users can save or “pin” images and organize them into theme-based “boards” such as dinner recipes and fall clothes. In the process, Pinterest has grown into a catalog of over 50 billion user-collected pins. On Thursday, Pinterest said that 70% of its users don’t just surf through these images, but have also saved or clicked on them to learn more about it.
Pinterest has focused its attention on building its advertising business this year. It has reorganized the team, improved targeting options, and launched several new products, including a video ad and a buy button that allows users to purchase goods directly from retailers without leaving the site.