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Get it while it's cheap: Pinboard's revenue model

Bookmark site Pinboard charges new users more than early ones. Here's why.

Pinboard is Maciej Ceglowski's Delicious competitor. Sort of. It's a one-man show, a feature-light but fast site for saving bookmarks and seeing what other people are saving, too, if you wish. It's easy to use, thanks to a collection of functional bookmarklets that do various things (I like the "read later" one). TechCrunch has a glowing review.

Unlike most tools in the category, Pinboard is not free. There's a one-time fee for getting access to the service, and the fee is going up. For every person that signs on, the fee rises a tenth of a penny. As of this writing, the gate fee is $5.03, indicating that the service has about 5,030 users. It's free to use after payment, although Ceglowski may eventually charge a subscription fee for additional features. He'll give users credit for their sign-up fee if he does that.

Pinboard has several fast ways to save links, including this pop-up bookmarklet. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

There's no trial period, but there is a three-day satisfaction guarantee. The whole thing is part of Ceglowski's plan to build a product he likes, make enough money to support himself for a while doing it, stay small, and prevent the service from filling up with spam accounts and bogus links.

I asked Ceglowski, via IM, if he thought this upfront payment plan was limiting the growth of his user base. He told me that infinite growth is not the goal. "The site is spam-free and I was able to collect enough money to work on it full time for a while; those were my main goals," he wrote. Ceglowski lives in Romania and is the only person working on this project full time.

In fact, he appears to want to actively avoid rapid growth. "I have seen a lot of free services burn up all their development time scaling for users," he said. He has no plan to cap the gate fee as more people sign on. "I am tempted to just let it go up and see what happens," he says.

Ceglowski built the Pinboard serivce, he says, after watching the Magnolia meltdown and watching Delicious become big and bloated. In fact, it was Delicious founder Joshua Schachter who gave Ceglowski the idea for the escalating sign-up fee.

Ceglowski set me up with a (free) reviewer's account before our chat. After talking with Ceglowski I told him I felt bad that I didn't pay the $5.03 gate fee. He just said, "That's ten loaves of fine Romanian bread, I'll have you know."