A few years ago I began to notice tweets of friends including an image with the text: “Find me on Path!” followed by a username and, for example, “7 moments”. Straight away I recognized this had to be a new social media network. Enthusiastically I navigated to the App store on my iPhone and downloaded the app.
As you may have found striking in the title of this post, Path is a private social network. What exactly does that mean? Founder of Path in 2010, Dave Morin, aimed to create an intimate social network where one could share photos and updates (“moments”) with a closed and small network of friends. In order to force users keep this social network private, Path allowed a user to have a maximum of 50 friends. The company began with an iPhone app and website, then gradually extended to offering the app to Android, iPad and Windows users.
“Our long-term grand vision here is to build a network that is very high quality and that people feel comfortable contributing to at any time.” – Dave Morin
After having used the app for about a week, I noticed that many of my friends weren’t actively using it and found it fairly boring. Regardless of the beautiful design and playful elements in the app, it just did not take off. The tweets attracting users started to diminish and after a couple of months I had forgotten that it had ever existed. Only today, the network got me thinking! What had gone wrong with Path? Why did it fail?
After having done some research, I found that Path has changed considerably since their launch in 2010. In 2012, they were urged to increase the maximum number of friends from 50 to 150. They are also planning on developing new apps to enrich the platform and make it more similar to large social networks. Hence, focussing less and less on being a private network (Bhuiyan, J 2014).
In theory, the idea of having a private network with close friends and family sounds appealing to many people, however the “privacy” of the network is the main reason for its failure. Many people found that in practice, the app turned out to be highly limiting and boring. Many users struggled with the small reach compared to social networks as Twitter and Facebook. Isaac Budmen described the application as “woefully insubstantial in meaningful content” (Budmen, I 2012). I found it interesting to discover that many people are not necessarily on social networks for their close friends and family, but mainly for everything beyond this.
Today, Path sees 4 million users per day, allows up to 500 friends and still promotes itself and individual profiles with the hashtag #thepersonalnetwork. With every app update, the app moves further and further away of the private network it was upon its launch. What do you think of the idea of a private social network? Would it appeal to you? What would you (not) miss compared to regular social networks? What do you seek for in a social network? Have you ever heard or used Path?
If you are interested in trying out the app it is still available in mobile app stores!
Bhuiyan, J. (2014). Path, The Personal Social Network, Battles To Be Popular Too. Available: http://www.buzzfeed.com/johanabhuiyan/path-the-personal-social-network-battles-to-be-popular-too#.gjplYxBQMR. Last accessed 1st Oct 2015.
Budmen, I. (2012). Path: Private Social Network with Good Interface, but Lacking in Substance. Available: http://infospace.ischool.syr.edu/2012/01/16/path-private-social-network-with-good-interface-but-lacking-in-substance/. Last accessed 1st Oct 2015.