Will Pinterest prove its worth in 2015?

The next year will be the most important one of Pinterest’s life. Until now, the company has focused on its application and its audience, to the detriment of its coffers. It had the luxury to ignore money because it raised a nosebleed $764 million in venture funding to sustain itself. Like most adventurous startups, the money was raised on an unrealized, untested, uncertain premise: That advertising on a visual inspiration application would be highly lucrative.

Come New Year’s Day, that hypothesis will be put to the test for the first time on a large scale. After endless preparation, Pinterest’s year of reckoning has arrived.

In 2015, any brands will be able to do native advertising on Pinterest by paying to promote pins that appear alongside regular Pinterest content. Companies can use Pinterest’s reservation-based system, paying set prices to make sure their ads appear in people’s feeds. The auction-based system, where advertisers bid against each other, is still in beta.

Pinterest has been beta testing reservation-based promoted pins with a select group of partners since September 2013, moving slowly to make sure it nailed its advertising process and didn’t scare off users. According to Pinterest’s blog post about the wider-scale release, the beta test was hugely successful. Like regular pins, promoted pins are shared an average of 11 times, resulting in additional free impressions for advertisers (they only cough up money for the initial impression). These pins continue to be seen and shared after the advertiser stops paying to promote them.

The quiet social company decided to herald its big advertising news when the least amount of people would see it: Over the holiday break. It broke the story by publishing a blog post that ran at the same time as a New York Times feature on the news.

This is par for the course for Pinterest. The company regularly holds big parties at its office to celebrate the introduction of new product features, but when it comes to its revenue stream it prefers not to raise a fuss.

It’s possible that Pinterest is nervous about its reckoning moment and wants to experiment with advertising outside the prying eyes of the public. It’s hard to get to a $5 billion valuation in Silicon Valley without having brought in a cent of revenue. At this point, the stakes are high for Pinterest’s investors and the path is risky.

In the next twelve months, we’ll learn for the first time whether investors overvalued Pinterest or if the company is worth the war chest of funding it’s sitting on. If it’s the latter, [company]Google[/company] better look out. It has another rival creeping up to compete in the category of search.

Pinterest’s image-heavy application may give it a distinct advertising edge in the visual web.

Make your own filters on this Instagram for photo pros

EyeEm, which is like an Instagram for professional photographers, is now attempting to woo Average Joes to the application. With a new update, EyeEm has added a wide range of such tools, like exposure, contrast, and brightness (but not color). Instead of sticking with preset filters, you can make your own.

An animation showing the new EyeEm editing tools.

An animation showing the new EyeEm editing tools.

It brings a few professional-level editing tools to the masses by simplifying them for mobile use. It’s the kind of application that’s unlikely to ever explode with consumers — Instagram beat it to the mainstream — but with 10 million registered users it’s a crowd pleaser for those looking for a little more mobile photo editing control.

With the edit tool update, the company also introduced a feature called “Open Edit,” where you can inspect a posted photo to see what editing options the person used on it. That way you can copy someone’s editing choices (i.e. filter) as a bundle and apply it to any of your photos.

EyeEm's new Open Edit tool

EyeEm’s new Open Edit tool

EyeEm is essentially trying to professionalize mobile photography and mobile photo editing. It makes money through partnerships with companies like Getty, which buys stock images from EyeEm photographers who then share the returns with the photo app. “We use technology to make sure we’re capturing the highest resolution pictures the mobile camera allows,” Markus Spiering, Chief Product Officer (and former head of product at Flickr), told me.

Here are Instagram’s five new filters

For the first time in two years, the photo sharing company is introducing new filters. This is a big deal for users, who express themselves, their emotions and their most glorious selfies through the tinted lenses.

The new shades are called Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden and Perpetua. Take a look below:

Screenshots of new Instagram filters

Screenshots of new Instagram filters

Along with the new colors, Instagram introduced a filter management tool. “We know that everyone has their favorite filters,” Instagram said in a blog post. “Tap [the Manage button] to re-arrange the order of your filters and hide the ones you rarely use.”

Users can also now preview a photo they’ve taken in multiple blurred filter thumbnails to make it easier to choose a lens.

Instagram's new management tools

Instagram’s new management tools

Filters are key to the Instagram experience. Arguably, they’re the reason Instagram overcame other social photo sharing applications on the market. For the power users, Christmas came early.