Shuffles, Pinterest’s invitation-only collage app, is blowing up on TikTok — here’s how to get in TechCrunch

Collage-style video “mood boards” are going viral on TikTok — and so is the app that makes them possible. Pinterest’s recently soft-launched collage maker Shuffles has climbed up the App Store charts thanks to demand from Gen Z users who are leveraging the new creative expression tool to create, publish and share visual content. These “aesthetic” collages are then set to music and posted on TikTok or shared privately with friends or with the wider Shuffles community.

Despite being in invite-only status, Shuffles has already spent some time as the #1 Lifestyle app on the US App Store.

During the week of August 15-22, 2022, Shuffles ranked No. 5 in Top Lifestyle Apps by iPhone downloads in the US, according to calculations provided by app intelligence firm data.ai – a 72-place increase in ranking compared to to the week before. It was the #1 Lifestyle app on iPhone on Sunday, August 21, and broke into the top 20 non-gaming apps on iOS as a whole in the US on the same day, after jumping up 22 from the previous day.

In addition, the firm Sensor Tower found that the app is now No. 66 overall on the US iPhone App Store and is the No. 1 overall app in Ireland, New Zealand and the UK. It is #2 overall in Australia and #3 in Canada.

First launched in late July 2022, the app has seen 211,000 iOS downloads worldwide in the month it’s been live. 160,000 of those downloads were in the US, data.ai says. Sensor Tower, meanwhile, estimates that the app has seen approximately 338,000 installs during this time.

Considering it’s still not “publicly launched,” Shuffles looks set to be a hit for Pinterest, which has been trying to reinvent itself for the creator-driven, video-first era with products like Idea Pins, similar to TikTok, and live video shopping on Pinterest TV.

Similarly, Shuffles also targets a younger demographic who use social media in a new way: for self-expression, not just networking.

The new app allows users to build their own collages using Pinterest’s photo library or by snapping photos of objects they want to include using the camera. One smart feature involves the use of technology, built in-house, that allows users to cut out objects from their photos, Pinterest boards or by searching for new Pins.

This is similar to iOS 16’s upcoming photo cropping feature, which is arguably one of the more fun additions that comes with Apple’s new mobile operating system. Here, you can easily copy an object from one of your photos – like your dog, for example – and then paste the clip anywhere you choose, like in an iMessage chat. This feels a bit magical, as you only need to tap and hold to lift the image away from the background.

Shuffles, meanwhile, make image clipping even easier. When you either search for or snap a photo, the app often automatically identifies the object in the photos and you just need to tap the “Add” button to place it in your collage where it can be changed and moved around the screen. Other times, you can use the included tool to cut out the part of the image you want to use in your creation.

You can also choose to add effects and motion to your photos to make them shake, spin, pulsate, rotate and more. For example, you can add an image of a record player and then animate it so that it actually spins.

Image credit: Pinterest

The final product can be saved locally on your device, shared in a message with friends or published to a dedicated community using a hashtag. These hashtags can be searched in the app’s discovery section where collages tagged with popular hashtags – like #moodboard, #vintage or #aesthetic, for example – are also showcased.

While the app makes for great TikToks, it also helps drive traffic to Pinterest. The objects in users’ collages are linked to Pinterest and a tap will bring you to a dedicated page for that item, which you can then open to view directly in Pinterest. When it comes to items that are available for purchase — like fall fashion or home decor, for example — users can also purchase the item by clicking through to the retailer’s website.

Demand for the app has been helped by its exclusivity, for now.

Users need an invite code to enter – and they can only get it from an existing Shuffles user who only has 5 invites to share.

Invitation codes have often been used to increase demand for new products, having seen great success as a growth mechanism for Google’s new email system Gmail in the early 2000s. But in recent years, their use has felt less authentic, as they became a way for app marketers to push users to post on social media in exchange for early access to a new product.

However, with Pinterest, the use of the invite code mechanism is not tied to a request that users take some kind of action to be admitted. Instead, you have to know someone to get an invite, which has led some TikTokers to lament how they’ve had to beg friends for codes.

(Ask no more: Pinterest gave TechCrunch readers an invite code to use for Shuffles: FTSNFUFC. If it runs out, visit Pinterest’s Instagram or Twitter account for future code drops. This is not an advertisement or paid promotion, we is just sharing the code!)

Pinterest told TechCrunch that the app is invite-only because it hasn’t technically launched publicly.

Shuffles, we’re told, is the first-ever standalone app created by Pinterest’s internal incubator, TwoTwenty. The team, which also had a hand in the creation of Pinterest TV, is focused on researching and testing new product ideas and iterating on those that take off.

As for why the app resonates with Gen Z, it appears to be the combination of the technology used to facilitate collage production with the desire for creative expression tools that serve the demographic’s social habits.

“The app is seeing burgeoning download rates, targeting younger users. It builds on the empowerment of creativity and user-generated content, popularized in many ways by TikTok,” Lexi Sydow, Head of Insights at data.ai, told TechCrunch. “Especially for younger generations, photo editing and creative projects mobile first more than ever, leveraging robust mobile apps to create robust projects that once required sophisticated desktop software. The app takes collaging one step further with simple built-in tools that would require multiple steps or coordination across multiple apps,” she explained.

“Users curate their moodboards and ‘vibes,’ which touches a similar cultural thread to Spotify’s visual-first campaigns that showcase your unique music taste. The app is inherently dependent on Gen Z’s social habits where users leverage social media apps to share with their networks and close circles of friends. The app has received 4.31 out of 5 stars to date since launch, with 72% of all reviews being 5 stars,” Sydow added.

Shuffles is currently iOS only and a free download on the App Store.

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