You’ve probably heard of Path. Even if it doesn’t sound familiar you might remember last year a new social network, that many called a “Facebook killer” even before it launched, ended up being a total flop. For starters a lot of people criticized the 50 friend limit. There were other reasons, but basically, no one saw the point. Now a year later, with some more functionality and a year of Facebook privacy fears, Path seems to be more relevant.
@Path is an interesting social app and a hard one to describe. If you took simplified versions of Foursquare (without the badges and points), Instagram, SoundTracking and added status updates and the ability to tell people when you went to sleep and when you woke up (weirdest post of the service IMO), and locked it all in a mobile app that only allowed 150 friends, that would kind of be like Path, but not.
I’m not going to try to describe or review Path in the traditional sense because that’s not what I really do. At the bottom of this post I’ve used @Zemanta to link to a bunch of reviews, you can check those out if you’re curious.
I do want to take a look at what Path means in the evolution of social networking. For starters I recommend watching this video of Path founder @davemorin at #LeWeb. Dave was one of the original guys behind Facebook.
I did ask my friends on Path, Twitter and Instagram what they thought of Path and in general the sense is, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.” This isn’t the wild adoration one would expect from a relaunched service that’s growing at a 30X pace and adding thousands of new users each day. No one’s deleting their Facebook accounts. No one’s ditching @Instagram (yet) but all this feedback did lead me to a realization about why Path (or at least its approach) will succeed:
Path does for Facebook what circles were supposed to do for Google+
With Path, you can have a small controlled social experience. In fact you have no choice because at most you get 150 friends. I do see problems for people once they start accumulating more than 150. Choosing between friends will be hard for some people and I can see a few people’s feelings being hurt but I’m willing to bet that this affects far fewer people than you might think. Most people on Facebook don’t have more than 150 friends.
But the beauty of Path is that once you’ve created a “moment” you can choose to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Foursquare.
Thriving Niche Upstream Social Networks.
Even if you don’t care about Path, you should to care about the evolution of social networking (or you’re really reading the wrong blog).
Something that I haven’t posted about yet but have been working out in my head is the concept of Upstream Social Networks (USN) and Downstream Social Networks (DSN). Social networks like Path are USN where our updates originate from and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are DSN, collecting all those updates. In fact if I look at my Facebook page it’s mostly posts from Posterous, Instagram, Path, GetGlue, Goodreads, SoundTracking, and the occasional Foursquare checkin.
Part of this is workflow and part of this is features and control of content and privacy. Path allows me to choose who I share what with much better than Facebook and their groups setting does. I also see using Path much easier than managing Google+ circles.
With the World moving towards 7 Billion people on the planet and some people predicting the majority of them with smartphones in the next 5 years, there is plenty of market share for social networks like Path. They don’t have to, nor want to be the next Facebook. In fact if you watched the video you’ll have heard Dave mention that they plan on making their revenue through the freemium model (right now they charge for some extra photo filters). I sure hope this works, because I would love to see a few social networks that aren’t reliant on advertising. But we’ve heard the no advertising promise before (I’m looking at you Twitter).
What Does Path Mean For Marketeers
Lets assume for a minute that as social networking evolves the social graph is filled with private USN and more open, commercial DSN. And what if most of those USN didn’t allow brands and advertising in? (Most of them will but humor me for a minute.) If marketeers and brands want to reach people inside their private USN, they need to be brought in by the members of those networks. Brands need to create experiences worth talking and sharing. A small example is when I shared my new Star Wars Moleskine I was going to be using on Path. You can see the reactions I got on Path as well as those I got on Instagram. Both of those went to Twitter and received their own reactions there.
Now of course, most of these startups, especially the ones that take VC money, will eventually offer brands a way in, either through in stream content ads or brand profiles. But as a user, taking off my marketing hat, I’d really like to see a freemium social network where brands weren’t allowed to play.
What are your thoughts? Are you using Path?
- Path Review: App Aims To Make Social Network More Personal (huffingtonpost.com)
- Putting The “Social” Back Into Network (viralblog.com)
- Thoughts on Path (kenleyneufeld.com)
- bylinebeat: Path app aims to make a social network more… (stoweboyd.com)
- The Path Less Traveled (digitaria.com)
- Here’s Why The New Path Will Make You Want To Delete Facebook (businessinsider.com)