The Complete In Depth Guide To Hot New Mobile Social Network Path

With Facebook’s foray into mobile looking tentative at best, Path is well positioned to stake a claim in the space. While Facebook is having to adapt its existing platform to please mobile users, Path benefits from been built natively for mobile. The most recent version, Path v2.5, has got everyone a little bit excited and made it look more likely it could take Facebook on in a big way. Except that since Path brings in all your social networks into one platform, it starts to get even more exciting.

As our social network habits develop, we are increasingly seeking those ‘niche’ experiences that can live under one platform. It’s Instagram for photos, Twitter for short updates and news, Tumblr for image-based blog posts. And Path isn’t trying to take any of them on, but simply provide a beautiful interface where you can experience those platforms, on mobile.

Path has expanded way beyond their initial offering from launch in November 2010, uniquely only allowing you 50 connections through which to share your updates. This then expanded to 150 connections (based on the Dunbar number) for Path v2.0, and with Path v2.5 offering improvements such as larger images – 30% larger in fact – and an improved camera, they’re latching onto the importance of imaging now in a big way, making it a more central focus of the Path experience.

Tips & Tricks

If you’re just getting started with Path, then these helpful tips will definitely help you hit the ground running.

The Story of Path

Path started out as little more than a photo sharing app in November 2010. Created by former Apple and Facebook engineer Dave Morin, Path has grown exponentially since it secured angel investment 20 months ago. Path raised a further $8.5 million in early 2011 and saw its membership rise from 30,000 to 300,000 in December, and momentum is clearly behind it. Path has grown into one of social networking’s most unique commodities, now boasting over 3 million members, and it clearly has the potential to become more than a niche app.

Path is built around exclusivity and really stands alone in trying to counteract the trivialisation of social media: users are limited to 150 contacts and encourage to treat Path like an online diary or journal. Such limitations increase the value of one’s friends, so thought should go into choosing them. Path wants you to pick the people who mean most to you – like close friends and family – and believe that stringency will make users more comfortable with posting personal content than they would on Facebook, or any similar kind of social network.

Morin describes his app as a “smart journal” and the 150 friends limit was chosen on the basis of research done by 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. According to Path:

“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.”

As mentioned above, Morin is quite the prodigy having been hired by Apple once he’d finished college before joining Facebook after meeting (and being dazzled by) founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz. He gained plenty of experience as an integral member of the team that created Facebook Connect and the Facebook Platform, and Path is his radical attempt at moulding the established Facebook template to new specifications.

There have been some problems for Path, however. In February, the company was surrounded by controversy when it was discovered that users’ iPhone contacts had been downloaded to Path servers without said users’ permission. Path was quick to issue an apology and delete all the contacts they had gained through such negligent methods, but users were angered by such a casual breach of their privacy.

Morin stated at the time that Path “downloaded the address book to our servers in order to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and efficiently as well as to notify them when friends and family join Path. Nothing more.” The debacle most definitely had a negative impact on Path’s image, but their progress has not been noticeably slowed since.

With the release of Path v2.5, Path’s rampant expansion and Morin’s success story should be set to continue. The newest version was designed with easier accessibility in mind and comes with an improved camera and smarter functionality, all of which should only galvanise people to move away from Facebook and make their social networking experience more personal.

Main Features

“It’s our hope that these additions to Path allow you to watch and read what your friends are watching and reading,”

Path is as much defined by its limitations as anything else; these are what makes this social networking app distinctive. Morin has committed to an aggressive simplification of the modern social media experience, as evidenced by the mere 150 potential friends (upped from 50 for Path v2.0) Path allows its users, but even then, users would only be capable of sharing photos and posting updates among their nearest and dearest.

The now infamous friend limit is designed so that user’s will be more comfortable with posting more personal updates; they will be more likely to share heftier details with the special people who make their Path friend list than with the potential hundreds and thousands they are linked to on Facebook, or Twitter.

When you first set up your Path account, alongside entering your regular details, you are given the option to upload content from other social media profiles including Facebook, Foursquare and Instagram so that your profile isn’t bare. The interesting thing about Instagram’s inclusion is that while you can upload content at the beginning, there is no way you can cross post to your Instagram account like you would with Facebook or Tumblr. This is probably because Path has its own camera filters and doesn’t want to take away from it by including a mobile rival (As mentioned earlier, Path began life as a photo sharing app).

Path v2.5 tinkers with its formula very slightly and focuses more on improving what’s already there instead of introducing new features. The Path camera now shoots in both square and landscape and one can film video recordings in addition to taking photographs. A new toolkit is now available and users can now zoom in/out, increase the depth of their shots and crop the resulting images or with ‘Glo’, which you can use to “fix and enhance details in dark or bright photos.” Path v2.5 also boasts more extensive tagging features and new photo filters, while images will now appear 30% larger than on previous editions of the app.

Updates have also been improved to be smarter and encourage greater interaction between friends. Path is keen to tout the fact that you can now share what you’re reading or watching through the app, and when one does so, links to related items (such as IMDb profiles and Wikipedia pages) will now be featured beneath the update in question. It is Path’s hope that these additions “allow you to watch and read what your friends are watching and reading.”

It couldn’t be social media without some overt peer pressure, so now users can ‘nudge’ their friends to use Path more in what may be the most self-serving addition a social networking site has ever made. You can also tag a friend’s post with one of five emoticons: smiling, winking, surprised, frowning, or a heart, which is a far more nuanced than the like/+1-or-nothing approach of its competitors, but then again, while Path’s competitors allow you to comment on posts and photos; Path does not.

Reviews & Opinions

– MacLife describes Path as an app “best walked with friends, but it can be a quiet journey.”
– KnowYourMobile says that whether you appreciate Path or not depends on what your outlook on social networks is.
– At the start of the year, Gizmodo describes why Path is going to be huge saying that its exclusivity is its main strength.
– CNet praises its interface, saying that it’s “elegantly designed and head and shoulders above that of Facebook’s mobile app.”
– Magnet Stories makes reference to the fact that Path is more secure in “that your profile [is] private by default and no one but those connections can see anything on your timeline.”
– Bigger is most certainly better according to Forbes as it gives a brief summary of the v2.5 update.
– Co.Design questions whether the v2.5 update will make it any more relevant than previous versions, but praises its design choices.
– Business Insider suggests that Path’s greatest strength is the consistency of its content.

Stats Sources

You can download Path for both iPhone and Android.

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