I think the newly launched Path is a burst of fresh air in an increasingly congested, me-too social networking space. Path wants you to create and curate a more personal social network, that matters to you more. It is a simple yet elegant photo sharing application and the company is co-founded by @DaveMorin (the ex-Facebooker who posted this 100 million users mark in 2008) and @ShawnFanning (ex-Napster) and funded by rockstar investors (full list here).
Mobile, social photo sharing is in vogue these days. Startups in this marketspace include Instagr.am and picplz. However, Path offers a different social networking experience. It takes a different approach from established social networks – Facebook with mutual following (you follow someone, the other person must Accept it) and on Twitter, you ‘pull’ others’ status updates to your stream (you can Follow anyone with public profile). But, on Path, you Share (or ‘push’) your photos (or moments) to your friends. But, your friends can easily stop your moments from appearing on their Paths.
Path is certainly eye candy for anyone. Capture any photo on your iPhone, tag them as people, place or thing and share it with your chosen friends (see image below). Stream consists of snippets of photo; images nicely ‘cut out’ into rectangle boxes. Tap to view the full image and to find out who have seen the photo. You can also log into Path website to see your photostream and edit account settings. On Path, you can only share your moments with 50 people. It’s like having only 50 invites to your personal social network. Why 50? Founder Dave Morin wrote:
We chose 50 based on the research of Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, who has long suggested that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships that the human brain can sustain at any given time. Dunbar’s research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly 3. So while we may have 5 people whom we consider to be our closest friends, and 20 whom we maintain regular contact with, 50 is roughly the outer boundary of our personal networks. These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives.”
Path is a nifty service. Expectations are high, and rightly so because of its impressive roster of well-known founders and investors. Can the company sustain its viability over time? What will be its business model? Will it suffer the unfortunate fate of the almost-similar startup radar? Or is Path an idea whose time has come? These and dozens of other questions (similarly faced by many other startups) that will be answered in the Path ahead.
The Path less travelled: Making your social network a little more personal originally appeared on GreyReview on November 16, 2010.