Pearltrees releases a new version, without any pearls nor trees

Pearltrees releases a new version, without any pearls nor trees


The Paris-based startup founded in 2009 once declared: “We focus on the visual potential of Pearltrees to let people dive deeply into their interests and nearly feel them”. Their product, offering a digital curation tool, was unique because of the visual interface voluntareely original: links and folders symbolized by rounded pearls attached together like the branches of a tree. Today, pearls and trees have disappeared to make room for a brand new and larger organisation tool.

2. A collection in Pearltrees

Two years ago, everyone wanted to build products around “curation” and “interest graph”. Today the keywords have shifted to “collaborative SaaS tool” and “organizing data”. Pearltrees, who has raised €8,5 million in two rounds, is renewing itself to match the new trends by releasing a new version focused on organization of collections in a more “obvious” way. Pearltrees 2.0’s coolest feature is that you can literally curate anything, from a URL to a picture to a paragraph to a document to a quote. Everything is drag-and-dropable – I wouldn’t be surprise if you could soon drag-and-drop your thoughts on Pearltrees as they do with Harry Potter’s pensieve. The new interface is very similar to what everyone is used to on any computer: folders are organized in a (regular) tree structure. Free users will get 1Go of storage space. Two premium plans can give you access to more storage space (25Go and 100Go – as a comparison, Dropbox gives you 2Go for free and 100Go for premium individual users), backup, private and customization features.

The other main improvement lies in the shift from Flash to HTML5 technology, which will make a huge difference for all those who never update their Flash player – and those who think Flash is “so 2011”.

Why giving up the core of the product, after 4,5 years of existence and 1,7 million users? Mainly because the format was hindering the virality of users’ collections of pearls. The reputation of the startup has indeed dropped from hopes to become “the new Facebook” in 2012 to basically a nobody in 2014. Having nearly 2 million users is an impressive figure, especially for a French social app; yet the team was shy on giving out the numbers that actually matter such as active users, paying users and retention rate – which, in itself, tells a lot about the reality of those numbers.

Pearltrees’ new vision is to provide an organizational tool for everything, whereas other services consider your digital life divided in silos: Pinterest for pictures, Dropbox for files, Evernote for notes, etc. The “social” aspect has not completely disappeared from their strategy: the discovery features are also reinforced in the new version. If you are a teacher who wants to build collaborative projects with your students, a group of friends who wants to make a list of your favorite bars and restaurants or a journalist who wants to use a technology watch tool, the new Pearltrees seems to work fine.

The only drawback is that the design of the app has not changed much and looks a little old to create a real agreeable experience. Having a beautiful design is no detail for a startup that aspires to reach 6 billion users: would Dropbox or Pinterest be so successful without their super-clean and modern interface? Internet users are so hard to please today that it is rarely possible to get traction with “only” a high-quality product.

28 Responses

  1. Csaba Veres

    Thanks for this post. I was going crazy trying to find the pearls and the trees! To me the application has lost all of its uniqueness and charm.

    • Teal Lily

      The new structure is too much like Pinterest. I used to use Pinterest a lot until I discovered Pearltrees. I upgraded to a premium account on Pearltrees but did not like Pinterest enough to upgrade there. The more visual interface of Pearltrees was much more appealing than Pinterest. Pinterest has some good boards, but on the whole, it’s just a picture and link dump site. There are too many of those online already. Pearltrees was much better for curating and organizing a related series of links in various categories. It was easy to see how a tree related to other trees. Pinterest is a very loosely grouped bunch of link dumps (boards) vs. Pearltrees as an organized directory of links. The new Pearltrees has lost the directory structure, and is less useful for curating. I can see the new Pearltrees being useful as a curating tool if a couple of changes are made. One- Trees/folders should have more “weight” than individual pearls. They should be visually different and more eye-catching/obvious than individual pearls. Perhaps trees could be larger and have a thicker border than single pearls? It would be better if the trees could be organized into areas, perhaps with horizontal dividers/spacers. Single pearls shold have more white space around them or be smaller to show they are single pearls not trees/folders. Two- Having an actual tree directory structure on the left side or an option to switch to a tree structure would be better for organizing & curating. The tree directory should be expandable and collapsible. I will just wait until my premium account is about to run out to see if Pearltrees becomes more useful for curating again before deciding whether or not to renew my premium membership. At this point, I do not want to renew as Pearltrees lost the reason I valued it most- it was great for curating. I will not pay for an upgraded link dump site.

  2. Matthew Shelhamer

    I was a pretty avid user of Pearltrees until they made this change; now, I’m wondering just how much crack they’ve been smoking on a daily basis since they started working on Pearltrees 2. “Sometimes new users thought it looked complicated and the user interface change simplifies people’s first impressions.” Yes, possibly, but once that wonderful first impression wears off, one realizes that the new Pearltrees doesn’t scale well as time goes on and collections are added to, becoming more complex and comprehensive. The amount of useful information (especially information relationships!) you can fit in one screen was far greater using the old visual paradigm. There’s just no real overview possible now; just a nice, non-threatening Fisher Price interface with 70% of the functionality carved out of it. What made Pearltrees one-of-a-kind and awesome has now officially been thrown under the bus.

    • Barry Dyer (@DrBazUK)

      Completely agree, the loss of the tree view as the default has removed a central plank of organisation and navigation/discovery.

      By all means replace the flash version with a HTML5 version of the old interface but to move to tiles is a retrograde step. I’ve been a user of pearltrees for a very long time with >4.5k pearls. Exported them all today and will go back and 404 check them in bulk before recapturing them in Evernote and will use Mohiomap to visualise the resulting searches.

      Lessons learned – choose ONE bookmarking tool and stick with it, sadly it won’t be Pearltrees in this case as the lack of clarity on retaining the Version 1 mindmap organisational tree view has made me reconsider what I need to get out of cloud-based rather than social bookmarking.

    • Csaba Veres

      I have not seen Mohiomap before. Looks interesting. I’ll give it a go. Maybe it can be used to visualise the new Pearltrees tiles!

  3. iris_skye (@iris_skye)

    I actually miss the playfulness of the old design :(.

  4. Brett

    This second version it’s a suicide note

  5. Antoine Msika (@amsika)

    Thanks for the post!
    With Pearltrees our objective is to democratize the organization of information by letting people organize their digital information. Today 1.7 millions of contributors, about 30% of whom are active, have built an interest graph rich of 60 millions items. And more than 3 million of people use Pearltrees every month for all these qualities. Also, about 80% of our community is outside of France, this may explain your impression of “becoming nobody in 2014”.
    One last thing, we don’t share exact numbers about Premium members, but they are consistent with the standards of the industry.

    • Csaba Veres

      Thanks Antoine for your clarification. I guess you are with the company. Perhaps you could tackle the main point of this post? Please explain the rationale of dropping your most appealing and unique feature, the pearl trees! What was the problem with the old format? Were the trees too confusing do you think once they got too large? Is the current UI more scalable?

      Thanks in advance!

    • Antoine Msika (@amsika)

      Hello ! Yes, I’m Pearltrees Community Manager. Our core feature is and has always been the organization and sharing capacity. It was a success thanks to the tree format (cf the numbers above) but we want to go further. We want a simpler, more accessible and more powerful format that let really anyone organize and share their interests. The Dynamic Grid does this. Now, you can organize even more easily anything, and you can also share it easily: any of your friends can understand your organization at a glance, and you can explore others’ collection even more easily.
      We understand (and really appreciate) that some members are very attached to the old format. But don’t worry, you can still see your account in the old format in the “My account” menu if necessary.

    • Brett

      I’m so excited with this… actually, if I’m not more excited it’s because my refrigerator is filled right now with a huge stock of non-alcoholic beers… yes, the company just don’t tell anyone about their undoubtely superior 2.0 and new product.
      Good luck with the demagogic marketing strategy.

    • Antoine Msika (@amsika)

      Hi Brett,
      I’m sorry that you don’t like the new version. Please, feel free to send us your extended feedback by email (participation @ pearltrees .com ) I’ll be happy to discuss with you. And if you’re in Paris let me know, we can even discuss it around a beer (non-alcoholic or not) 😉

  6. Kristiyan

    I was about to buy an acount but with that change u lost me. I need to see my bussines “ON A PAGE” not in folders!!! I already have Windows… This site is not usefull anymore to me.

  7. Kristiyan

    Does anyone knows a similar site to the old version of pearltrees?

  8. cbarth

    Yep, I’m no longer interested in Pearltrees… I liked the interface, it was what drew me there in the first place. I’ll just stick to pinterest now. I will not be renewing my premium membership 🙁

  9. recrea33

    pearlfolders doesn’t quite have the same ring about it…
    the whole thing about pearltrees was the visual interface, you could organize links like a mind map,
    in a ‘if you liked that you might like this’ kind of way.
    the fun was climbing the tree. and that it had an organic feel.
    i guess the money men saw an opportunity…
    i hope someone will do a p3arltreez at some point…
    it was a good idea

  10. frantichorse

    Hint : if you have to change your creation in a way that totally contradicts its very name, you’re probably doing something wrong.

  11. Pzies Ydieft

    I can’t believe they remove the trees!
    I hope the version 3 has the possibility to see the ugly grid AND a tree.
    Something like “see as a tree” or “see as a grid”
    The tree can have colors… and other features like mind maps. If you go in this direction you can’t go wrong.
    Another feature that they can add is to publish a pearltree and at the same time post in Linkedin groups, facebook pages, g+, etc. Just do it more “cause or business friendly”.

    Another area of improvement.. place a form in your webpage for suggestions.. Or open a forum.
    Just email.. not a good idea.

  12. AJ

    bye bye beloved trees 🙁

  13. John Massaria

    Are there any programs that are out there that join ideas together like pearl trees? I liked the work of Mark Lombardi and I think the CIA intercepted this idea early on from his work. Then it was released to the public and now I think it went full circle back to the CIA… any ideas on what to use?

  14. NonanteSeize

    It now seems that Pearltrees have completely dropped the option to view trees.

    I guess it is okay when you get money to make a new product, but I really mean a NEW product, They basically just threw their old project out the window to make a new one. Why ?!
    Why not just make it a second site, and keep the old one ? (or even rename Pearltrees 1 to something else)

    I get that you “shifted visions”, but guys !?
    Did you really trash the old code ?

    And don’t give me your bullshit about “more organization”.
    The trees are basically mind maps.
    The folders are basically crap dumps, no hierarchy, no “parent/children” between “pearls”.
    I get that you aim for “social” and “sharing”, but if you defeat the whole purpose of your tool, you achieve nothing !

    The ONLY thing people that used, and even more, payed for Pearltrees 1 for the TREES have now is their flippin’ eyes to cry !

    I mean, for fork’s sake, did you really trash the old code ?
    Someone will just make a clone of the first site and steal your user base !
    Is this really what you aimed for guys ?

    Out and disgruntled,

  15. sarad

    i want my pearl and trees back!!!

  16. Lee Henderson

    This is insane and incredibly disappointing.

    In Uni I used to use pearl trees to sort my research. Since then I kind of forgot about it but it suddenly popped back into my mind. I was horrified to find a generic folder based system in its place.

    Where has the fun linking of ideas and concepts gone? Why could they not give you the option of which interface you choose to use rather than basically deleting their original system?

  17. indianwebpromotion

    Congratulations pearltrees and guys don’t worry there are many more other sites like pearltrees that help u building same pearls

  18. ask ira

    just why tree is so important ?

    tree can be readable only to editor, just like mind map. reading other’s mind map is a pain.

    why tree is important for the use of web bookmarks?

    using web bookmark is to curate and share, visibility matters much. tree is poor at visibility.

    if the use of tree is to organize collection according to personal viewpoint, you can just use the bookmarks tool provided by any browser

    tree is not a good idea for high visibility, which is the main goal of the use of web bookmarks, I think.

  19. kalli

    I gave the new version a try. A good honest lengthy one, but I’m not interested in sharing nearly as much as I am in organizing my content using a mindmap and being able to retrieve it through this. The greatest part about the “trees” was being able to easily expand the trees without losing the overall view and connections. Not to mention the joy of seeing how others’ integrated shared content into their “trees”. I was hoping pearltrees would evolve into a real “concept mapping” tool that would get past the hierarchical structure and become a truly innovative collaborative bookmarking tool, but instead it turned into just a pretty folder structure for bookmarks that is more cumbersome than my browser’s bookmarking tool. And then the last straw was the over-intrusiveness of the latest version of the Firefox add-on that I had to disable, so that star would quit following my cursor everywhere begging me to share my every click.

  20. kalli

    My only question now is “how can I export my bookmarks from pearltrees?

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