Alexis Madrigal on Pinterest

But it goes deeper than that. What Pinterest has created — almost unintentionally — is a database of things in the world that matter to human beings. While Google crunches numbers to figure out what's relevant, Pinterest's human users define what is relevant for a given topic. And because of that, they could become a legitimate competitor to Google, the world's most valuable Internet company.

Pinterest has always confounded me. I want to use the service. Its unique blend of aesthetics, utility, and experience makes it a pleasure to use... but I've never really known what to use it for. I've gone back and forth on this issue a few times.

So what is it that's so appealing about the site? And what does it mean for the future of Pinterest? Alexis Madrigal may have nailed it.

Read Can Pinterest Compete with Google's Search? on NPR or save it for later.