Path Open

Path: Private Social Network with Good Interface, but Lacking in Substance

Path, the latest hyped “innovation” in social networking, is a self-proclaimed smart journal that helps you share life with the ones you love. In essence a private social network that allows you to check in, share photos, music, and thoughts with no more then 150 of your closest pre-approved friends.

Beautiful Design 

The iOS app has gorgeous execution and an innate friendliness to it that makes you instantly want to click, touch and play with the various screens and features. It’s delicate use of textures with playful elements, such as a clock that spins its dial as you scroll through your feeds “moments” (what Path calls posts) bring out a childlike playfulness and intimacy with the app that Facebook’s and Twitter’s apps are severely lacking.

I’ve been using Path for almost a month now, and initially found it fun, exciting, and inspiring. The childlike sense of wonder in its interface and the novelty of ending my day with “going to sleep” and starting it with “waking up” made the app and network a real pleasure to use. However, the longer I have used the application, the more it has revealed itself to be woefully insubstantial in meaningful content.

Lacking in Content

The application focuses far too heavily on the same insignificant and often times meaningless minutia of everyday life that Twitter was criticized for before it was realized as powerful tool for networking and content curation. The fundamental structure of Path is one that inherently negates the ability to do either of these. By very definition of private social network, it cannot allow for the huge reach of a Twitter account with instantly eliminates almost all possibility of interacting with industry and thought influencers. Secondly, the limited sharing options stop users from sharing the valuable educational, and often times entertaining, content that Facebook does so well.

Theoretically, the idea of a personal and private social network where one can choose to share intimate and private thoughts with a select group of friends is a very strong one, but in practice it turns out to be limiting, frustrating and most of all boring. In theory, the idea of Path can be metaphorically related to communism- in it’s ideal state it could be a powerful and awesome tool bringing health and wellness to the masses, but in practice it seems only doomed to fail.

Not all is at a loss though; there is still hope for the development team at Path given the astoundingly original and amazingly intuitive user interface they have built I can only imagine there is a bright future in the mobile app development world for those individuals. Personally, I look forward to seeing what they produce.

Isaac Budmen

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  • Isaac, you know I am in agreement with you on this.  The limited size of the network, which initially seems like a good thing, ends up making the experience something less than exciting.  Minutiae is Minutiae, no matter how pretty it is.

    • Hey Kelly what’s up? So, I saw your comment about Path as well and had to share my 2 cents. My guess is that the few people who you have shared your Path with (and of course who reciprocated and shared their Path with you) have not caught on with using Path on a regular basis yet. So, I’m guessing your Path experience has been a sort of quiet one. And, if you didn’t take a lot of care in who you shared your Path with, maybe the moments being shared by your friends aren’t that interesting to you, and thus it feels like ‘pretty-but-uninteresting-minutiae’. 

      My reaction is this: I don’t think the limited size of the network is the problem here. I think Path got that part 100% right in their design.. and frankly, that is EVERYTHING for Path. The limited size of the network is what the entire success of the company depends on. 

      It’s like Twitter’s 140 character limit. It is literally THE defining ‘feature’ or attribute of Twitter, and I think the same goes for Path’s friend limit. 

      My guess is that you haven’t been able to convince your parents or family members or closes friends to use Path yet… or perhaps they’re not using iPhone or Android yet. But Kelly – they will be. And just like our parents used to laugh at the idea of joining Facebook, they will soon be using iPhones and I’m willing to bet on Path’s success going forward… so I bet you they will be using Path. 

      And once some of your close family and tightest friends are using Path (and regularly), the experience goes from “wow this is pretty, but it’s an echo chamber in here… boring and uninteresting! Goodbye” to: magical. Seriously.

      To me, it’s like this. Imagine you’re at the afterparty of a big conference. There are hundreds of people there, all having a great time. Some are friends of yours, some are famous industry titans, and some are members of the press. Think of the type of conversations you’re likely to hear and likely to engage in yourself. 

      Now, imagine having the ‘power’ to kick every single person out of that party, EXCEPT for your absolute best friends… and a few of your family members. Now think of the type of conversations you’re likely to engage in. Totally different, am I right? You’ll probably be more ‘open’, share more intimate details of your life, and frankly, be more interested in the conversations you’re having because you trust those present at the party more, and also because you care about them more than strangers or acquaintances. 

      You feel me? That’s Path, in my eyes. It’s like Twitter and Facebook if you kicked out all the marketers… and all the brands clammering for your attention. And then trimmed down your friends to just like 20 people haha. 

      Anyways. So yeah, I think Path has a lot of challenges left to conquer, for sure. The interesting thing to me is that it I perceive it as still being very much in the ‘hands of early adopters’… and I would argue that early adopter types tend to be much more extroverted and ‘noisemaking’ than the average person. So, it’s almost like Path has to RETRAIN its new users, the early adopter types, to engage in a whole new type of sharing. Ya know?

      We’ve been trained, as early adopters I would argue, to engage and network with everyone possible… grow your following, build your Klout score, engage engage engage, network network network, ask questions, answer questions, friend tons of people on Facebook, network like crazy on LinkedIn, keep in touch with everyone we meet on Facebook and Twitter, become thought leaders using social media…

      And suddenly there’s Path.

      And on Path, the point ISN’T to become the most well known. The goal isn’t to become a thought leader, a web celebrity, or to increase your Klout score. One of the challenges for Path (at least at this stage of its growth) is similar to trying to take someone who is a workaholic with ADD and get them to spend significant time relaxing with their family. 

      So, yeah… I think Path is onto something very, very special. And, very big. Right now, some early adopters are probably flustered because they aren’t used to the idea of being private on the social web… it’s a different type of sharing. 

      But, I think it is the exact type of experience that millions and millions of people are craving… and don’t even know how badly they are craving it. 

      Count my words, Kelly – Path is gonna be the stiffest competition Facebook will face going forward. 

  • Isaac baby how are ya? So, my experience with @Path has been a very different than yours. Personally, it’s one of maybe 4 apps I open every single day… throughout the day. Specifically, I think you criticize Path a bit unfairly in your paragraph at the end, where you say:

    “By very definition of private social network, it cannot allow for the huge reach of a Twitter account with instantly eliminates almost all possibility of interacting with industry and thought influencers. Secondly, the limited sharing options stop users from sharing the valuable educational, and often times entertaining, content that Facebook does so well.”

    My reaction: 
    (1) You say Path doesn’t work as broadcast-to-many mechanism, and that you’re frustrated because you can’t use it as a tool for networking with industry leaders. But, BRO! How can you criticize Path for that? That’s not what the company set out to do! I believe it’s very clear in their messaging – Path is intended for your family and closest-of-close friends… it is by its very nature not a networking tool, ya know? 

    (2) And on the same note, you also criticize it for “limited sharing options”. Huh? You think Path’s sharing options prevent users from sharing valuable/educational/entertaining content? I take issue with this on two accounts. First, Path allows you to share every single moment on Facebook, foursquare, and/or Twitter if you so choose. So, how can you refer to that as “limited sharing options”? Second, I think Path’s hypothesis has been that in a more intimate setting (surrounded by those we trust the most), we as individuals will share *more* content. Whether that content is education, entertaining, or valuable is all subjective and in ‘the eye of the beholder’. 

    If your family and closest friends are not sharing valuable moments on their Path with you, then perhaps the app simply hasn’t caught on for them yet… or perhaps you need to encourage them to ‘learn how to be more entertaining!’ haha. 

    But seriously, my experience on Path has been really magical man. It feels like 7th grade all over again, when life was all about just my family and my best friends playing basketball every day, all day long, at the park. It feels reminiscent of Twitter when I first joined and I had like just 20 friends or so on it and we were tweeting a lot and becoming more and more tight. To be honest with you, Path has brought me even closer to my dad and the few very close friends I have shared my Path with, ya know?

    My dad, specifically, it has been awesome. We have texted and called each other every single day (almost without fail, not including when I studied abroad in Singapore) since I first left home and entered my freshman year at Clarkson. He used to forward my brothers and I all these pictures every so often via text, and he would also ask me tons of questions like “where are you”, “what are you doing”, blah blah blah ya know? For Facebook, I wasn’t and still am not putting up statuses every single day. I don’t tweet every single foursquare checkin, and I actually don’t even checkin on foursquare to every place I’m at. But on Path, I don’t have that same ‘filter’ I have on Twitter and Facebook, where I have the worry of being too noisy or saying something I’ll regret, etc. On Path, since I highly trust every person who can see my Path, I checkin much more and share a lot more of the moments of my everyday life… which on Twitter I might think too hard and be like “ahh, this picture isn’t good enough”, or “ahhh, this thought isn’t cool enough”, ya know? So now, my dad sees all of this and is LOVING it. And he’s posting pictures and stuff and I’m seeing where he’s at, what he’s thinking, etc. 

    So, once you get some of your closest friends and family using Path… it’s just such an intimate, magical experience man. It’s not noisy. There aren’t people “networking with industry influencers”, or “broadcasting educational things”, trying to market themselves or what they’re working on. 

    None of that. 

    It’s just genuine, every day life sharing. I’m clearly rambling man but Path is really impacting my life bro… real talk. I think you should give it a 2nd chance, and treat it more like a ‘Private Journal’ with pages that you let your closest friends and family read sometimes. I post thoughts and pictures to it all the time that I don’t share with anyone. Totally private. Just journaling my life, ya know? And then of course I share other stuff to my friends on Path and it’s just really awesome. 

    I’ll leave you with this. Think of Path as if you were to quit Facebook and press the refresh button… except that you start off anew on MOBILE. Then, imagine you added only like 20 people. This is Path. It’s on the go, it’s intimate, and you share stuff only with your most trusted comrades. 

    Anyway. And final point from a more ‘business’ perspective. Betting against Path is not a smart business decision, in my opinino.. and I think you said as much in your closing paragraph so I think we are both in agreement on this. The team behind Path has what many believe to be the best iPhone team in the world, and their founder Dave Morin was employee #30 at Facebook (he was instrumental in building Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect, two of the most important products Facebook ever built) and worked at Apple before that. Their culture is based on Zappos’ idea of ‘the science of happiness’, and even after the ‘subjective failure’ of Path 1 and after Dave turned down a $100M acquisition offer from Google in late 2010/early 2011, their entire team stuck together the whole year until the launch of Path 2. 

    There’s something special going on here man. Trust me. 

    Holla soon,
    your boy John X

  •  We could do with implementing something like this for business. We run a large CCTV installer company and would like to have something like this to communicate between our subcontractors.