Photo: Adam Tinworth via Flickr
Path, a new social networking startup launching today, is sort of the anti-Facebook.The big idea is that it lets you share photos (for now, more features probably coming someday) with a maximum of 50 people — your inner circle. You can read much more about it at Path’s blog.
This is sort of the opposite of sharing things on Facebook. That’s because Facebook is constantly pushing you to expand your friend circle and publish more stuff publicly — trends that will likely continue as Facebook announces its email product today.
Path’s idea is one worth pursuing: Facebook is now — by design — too public for many people to share some of the stuff they’d only want to share with family and close friends. Some of it may be too boring or mundane for the general public, but interesting to people you’re close with. Some of it may be too personal. So that’s what Path is for.
Likewise, the “inner circle” social graph could eventually — if enough people buy in — be worth a lot as a platform. Advertisers and other developers would LOVE to get into your inner circle, because it means the recommendations you make will be trusted more, and the connections you have are worth more.
But Path has several challenges. Among them:
Path’s whole concept could easily just be a setting on Facebook. “Share with inner circle only,” or something like this. But, in Path’s favour, Facebook has been trying to make this an easy process for years, and has failed to make it easy enough. No one knows this more than Path CEO Dave Morin, who was previously a rising star at Facebook.
So, how will Morin differentiate Path from Facebook? By focusing on mobile, he tells us. That’s where the growth is in computing. And Path’s team seems to have a knack for making beautiful mobile interfaces.
We would add: Facebook has done a relatively crappy job with mobile, though it’s trying to catch up.
Facebook and Twitter are making people more promiscuous with what they share. Sure, there will always be some stuff you don’t share publicly. But the trend is toward sharing more, not less, so this may work against Path.
Morin says Path did a lot of research, and found that there are a lot of photos stuck in peoples’ phones that tell a good story, but don’t get shared on Facebook or Twitter. As we noted, some may be too boring or too personal. That’s where Path can complement Facebook.
Path is entering a very crowded field. There’s a lot more hot iPhone photo sharing apps right now than there were two months ago, especially Instagram and PicPlz. Path is obviously more than just a photo sharing app, but many people won’t realise that. And that’s not to say that Path couldn’t beat the other apps, but it could be harder to get noticed.
To that, Morin says, “We’re not a photo blogging service. We’re not public. Path is a place for you to keep it close and share with your close friends.”
Path, the app, may not be noisy and sexy enough to get people addicted. Even if a product fills a real need for people, it’s VERY hard to get them to add your app/site to their routine. Hot Potato was a great concept, but no one remembered to launch it when they were watching a game. Will your small inner circle of friends make enough photo updates to get you to launch Path every day? Many times a day? Will you feel rewarded for remembering to open the app. It may take some good, old-fashioned email blast alerts to remind you.
Morin says Path has an interesting feedback loop to get people checking back: It tells you if your friends have looked at your picture yet. This could help, and reminds us of the cool feature that AOL used to have for its email service — you could see if people have read your message yet, a feature that regular email doesn’t support.
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