The fly-on-the-wall details of Google allowing Pinterest to build a $75bn business parasitising Google Images is an untold story I'd love to hear. In the meantime, Chris Stokel-Walker's satisfying retelling of what happened will suffice: How Pinterest utterly ruined photo search on the internet.
Beloved by moodboard aficionados and wedding planners alike, the platform is hated by rank-and-file web surfers. It's not that it doesn't have its purpose; it's just that it intrudes on the search experience of pretty much everyone who doesn't want to use it. More than 28,000 Chrome users have installed Unpinterested!, an extension to remove Pinterest from Google search results, while countless others trade tips on how to craft search queries to exclude the photo-sharing website. The problem? Pinterest makes it obnoxiously difficult to view any image hosted on its platform without signing up for an account.
Google Images is carrion poisoned with risk. Perhaps Google never wanted to monetize or build out Images much for obvious legal reasons: so much liability, so close to its core products. But it's too prestigious to close down. Instead, the tendency has been to remove features and limit the usefulness of Goole Images on an on-demand basis. Who wants to work on a product so obviously subject to legal wrangling and bikeshedding? Pinterest probably got fat on it because it was the vulture that got there first, it could eat the risk, and stopping it would have just been another pointless expense.