Let’s face it: You’ll let anyone follow you on Twitter or Google+. You don’t care if 100 or 100,000 people know what you ate for breakfast. And while Facebook is inherently a permission-based network, you found that girl you dated in 5th grade and haven’t spoken to in 20 years and you friended her, right? It’s okay, though, because the social paradigm has shifted. 10 years ago a phone call to your neighbor who moved away when you were kids would be no less than creepy, but it’s common practice now.
In a world where influence and clout (or, Klout, I guess) is measured by reach, a social network that expressly limits the number of connections a user can have is almost audacious in this day of age. Or is it just what we need?
Enter: The Anti-Social Network
Originally founded as a mobile-only photo sharing application by Facebook executive Dave Morin and Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning a little over a year ago, Path—A modern journal that helps you share life with close friends and family—has grown into a full fledged social network with a twist. Path is very serious about it’s approach to building a platform for a “personal network.”
The idea is to create a more intimate social networking experience – and when you think about it, it makes sense. People are much more likely share personal information with 150 of their closest friends on Path than, say, 500 friends and acquaintances (many of whom may be people they barely know or probably haven’t seen in years) on Facebook. This may seem like bad strategy – especially in the world of social media, where success is based on the number of people using your site – but in December, the mobil app’s user basea reportedly grew from 10,000 to 300,000 daily active users in two and a half weeks, and, as of December, 2011, over 1.5 million and a people have downloaded the Path app.
Intrusion vs. Exclusion
Facebook’s ever changing and arguably confusing privacy policies coupled with their recent integration of Premium Ads into a user’s social feed could be a tipping point that pushes users to rethink their approach to keeping a “social journal.” Are we predicting a mass-exodus from Facebook? No. However, it’s not out of the question to think that in the near future we’ll see social-saavy users shifting from open sharing and limited privacy amongst a large network of mostly friends and acquaintances to a highly private, close-ended network of a smaller number of friends—and that’s just what Path is banking on.
Any Google search for “Path” will undoubtedly expose the app’s recent claim to fame: Exposed by a blogger Arun Thampi, Path had been uploading user address books to their servers without the user’s consent or knowledge. Not only that, the information was being stored unencrypted, in plain English.
Although Path never broke any privacy laws and followed all App Store terms and conditions, the breach of trust amongst the network and its user base was palpable. The consensus amongst the majority of users, including Thampi, was that Pat
h wasn’t doing anything nefarious with the information. In his initial response, Path CEO David Morin stated that uploading user address-books “is an industry best-practice,” however this is commonly an opt-in process.
Morin and the team at Path have since made a public apology and all user information has been deleted from Path’s servers. Upon setup, users will now see an opt-in screen to access contacts.
WHAT PATH MEANS FOR BRANDS
The options for brands on networks like Instagram and Path have been widely discussed but rarely agreed upon. Numerous brands have found success on Instagram simply by using it as a channel to provide content that their audiences want. But can Path provide more for audiences than just pictures and check-ins? Will audiences want to follow brands on Path? Or should brands focus on encouraging their loyal audiences to share their own experiences with the brand on Path? If so, Path could be a fertile ground for brands. The whole idea of creating an intimate social network means that Path users are going to trust what they see on Path much more than other social networks.
So what are your thoughts on Path? Will their so-called intimate approach to social networking give them an edge over other social media platforms? What place does Path have in the post-advertising world?