When former Facebook developer Dave Morin came up with Path, everyone thought it was just another photo sharing service and rightly so. The app allowed you to share photos with a very limited number of close friends (150) compared to the more wider-sharing sites such as Flickr and Facebook. There were also even better photo sharing services, one would argue, in the likes of Instagram. But one thing that the team at Path has done, which is very evident from the new Path that has just been released, is the addition of other interesting components that begin to differentiate the new application by including the ability to share a wider range of content and activities while still remaining very personal.
The new Path, which its co-founder fondly refers to as the “smart journal”, allows the user to share what music they are listening to, where they are and the people they are with. This may sound like something Facebook would do great, right? Well, the real rub comes in how this content is shared. Whereas Facebook offers a very wide sharing network with few options on what to share to whom and how, the new Path makes this easy by letting you chose any number of combinations of content that you would like to share like which song you are listening to and who you are with, or where you are visiting while you listen to which song or where you are and who you are with.
Former Facebook platform developer Dave Morin says that whereas these are very essential functions that other social media can perform, the new Path differentiates by only allowing you to share content with a significantly smaller group of close friends, something other social media websites approach in a totally different manner by encouraging users to have as large networks as possible (such as Facebook Friend Finder service)
Another interesting feature of the new Path is the auto sharing feature it has. Geared primarily towards sharing location based information, the new feature, which is optional, regularly posts your location at intervals to your small group of friends. As Path co-founder Morin says, “people do not want to push buttons all the time to check-in and may feel comfortable with their close friends and family knowing where they are”. This sounds like a very direct referral to location giant Foursquare, which requires users to manually “check-in” into the places they are. It is however still to be seen whether other social media networks with location functionalities will not add a similar feature to their applications in the near future.
When asked whether the new Path was a pivot from the former model, Path CEO Dave Morin was quick to say that the new Path is simply a culmination of the one year of user feedback and market exposure the company has had. He adds that Path is more entering into its full potential rather than morphing into something else altogether. One of the important things Path seems to be doing is differentiating itself through a subtle but very effective perception campaign. No longer called a photo sharing app, the new Path is being touted as a “smart journal” and according to Morin, this is very intentional as it ties in well with what they want Path to become, a very personalised multi-content sharing platform.
What’s interesting about Path is their decision to have all their networks set to private and the inability of users to share their photos or content publicly. When asked about this, co-founder Dave Morin replied, “When you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. We don’t do public sharing (though you can post to other social networks). With Path the network is always by default private. Also just choosing a limit like that gives us a great deal of focus.”
When asked about revenue and how the company plans to make numbers owing to the limited 150 friend per user feature, Morin indicated that in as much as this seemed like a limitation, it was actually one of their strong competitive advantages. Other social media products are cold and mechanical, he said, and rely on driving numbers owing to their media based revenue models.
Path on the other hand wants to be a warm, personalized service that allows you to build truly personal social networks with the very few people you can really be honest and vulnerable with and this is what they plan to sell. With plans to begin introducing premium features on a freemium model, Path hopes to win people over in a less brisk but steady manner and offer them the one thing that is today missing from other social media networks, real privacy in truly personal networks.