What is Path?

One of the hallmark features of social networks is the ability to connect with friends and family. And in the case of Path, that ability is exclusive. Hailed as “the most popular social network nobody understands,” the app was originally designed to allow an intimate network of users to share photos and updates within a “closed and trusted network of friends.” But how did Path begin, where is it going and who’s using it? Let’s take a look.

History

Launched in 2010, Path is actually the brainchild of several famous social networking moguls. Ex-Facebooker and former Apple employee Dave Morin and Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning founded the company five years ago. According to the International Business Times, the company has received $77 million in investments from 40 different investors.

The original idea behind Path was to use it as a companion network to Facebook, but in a manner in which users could only have 50 in-network connections. However, that number grew to 150, as the app was first released for the iPhone before it became available for Android, Windows and the iPad.

How Does it Work?

With that said, Path is obviously mobile-friendly. Considering its co-founders have extensive experience in the technology realm, that should come as no surprise. The company’s various apps are available across multiple platforms and have a sleek, user-friendly design and function.

Path’s overall design is quite sleek and maintains a simple yet high-end design. Just take a look for yourself.

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Essentially, the app acts as a news feed of updates but only from the people you truly want to hear from. In that regard, the exclusivity of the information and the people from whom you receive it separate it from the other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

This TechCrunch piece highlights the latest versions of both Path and Path Talk (more about that later). Path 4.0 moved all the core navigation to the bottom of the app, and the messaging feature has since been removed in favor of the separate Path Talk app. Overall, the app has certainly deviated from its original structure of such a limited network of friends, but with some struggles as far as user base and growth, that may have been a necessity.

Though this article is dated, it does do a great job highlighting some of the great aesthetic and functional features of Path, which includes an Instagram-type photo sharing feature.

Who’s Using It?

According to Venture Beat, Path sees about 5 million users per day—a minuscule number compared to the hundreds of millions of daily Facebook users. Due to some of Path’s marketing struggles, Apple gladly began talks to acquire the company in order to improve its foothold in the social network realm.

On the other hand, the company has taken measures to increase its user base and overall growth. This BuzzFeed piece highlights Path’s product line expansion, which has seen the development of complementary apps like Path Talk—a private messaging service. The development of a promotional tool has improved through the ability to promote the app and individual profiles using the hashtag #thepersonalnetwork. Unfortunately, that has resulted in a maximum network of 500 friends, which detracts from the original intent of keeping a tight-knit social circle.

The impact of the promotion tool via other social channels is explained perfectly in the BuzzFeed piece:

And for some of the app’s devoted users, Path’s decision to be more inclusive has proven frustrating, especially a new feature that encourages users to promote their Path profiles via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. Approximately 18 months ago, (per users requests, Morin notes) Path rolled out the feature which effectively kicks down the door of Path’s closed network.

Though the promotion tool was created in an effort to appease one of the most common user complaints in the United States, the audience is actually rather diverse. According to this ReadWrite article, “Path’s success is centered largely in Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia.” In fact, this Tech Crunch piece from a few months prior reported Southeast Asia is Path’s biggest market, followed by the United States with a growing user base in the Middle East. The fact that the main market is in Indonesia shouldn’t be such a celebrated triumph, one website writes. In fact, the overall direction of Path and its leadership definitely warrants some criticism. I wasn’t able to find any major brands or celebrities using the app, perhaps because it’s mission is based on keeping a private social network. Perhaps the fact that there are no known celebrities or brands that publicly support the app is a major concern.

Growth (and Development)

However, the other apps like Path Talk (private chat) and Place Messaging (a business text customer service feature) are certainly help expand the boundaries of Path’s current abilities.

path_talk_login_mx_hero

In fact, that expansion into the business realm could prove a big boon to Path’s success. Morin went on to explain the thinking behind the business text feature in the ReadWrite piece:

“The way we think about messaging in the future is not just about who you can message but what you can message,” Morin said. The business text feature is set to be released in the next update of Path Talk. “It enables you to text message any business in your life … and we have agents on the backend that see the text message, pick up the phone and call the business to get the information, and bring it back to you in under five minutes.”

Closing Thoughts

Overall, Path certainly has the look and functionality of a successful social networking app. It seems the people behind it are dedicated to making it successful, and the possible acquisition by Apple could only mean a brighter future. However, in a competitive app-driven world, I’m not so sure it’ll ever attain true success, at least not in the U.S. Similar options like Snapchat and Instagram, as well as its big brother Facebook, simply can’t be beaten.

Check out my Prezi presentation on Path for more information about this interesting app.

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