Path doesn’t have Facebook’s users or nearly as much public awareness and yet it is, by far, a superior personal network. For many people, Path is the social network they were hoping Facebook would be and isn’t.
I know a few friends and family who are apprehensive about Facebook and either use it reluctantly or skip it altogether. If they use it, it’s generally because their friends and family members are using Facebook to share stuff not because they see it as a meaningful way to keep in touch with the people they care most about. The problem is that Facebook is optimised for publicity and this makes a lot of people nervous because they could wake up one day and discover that Facebook made a change that exposes more of their data than they are comfortable with. It’s happened many times before.
On the other hand, Path is designed for a very personal, private experience. It is fundamentally different because of its emphasis on a more personal and meaningful experience. When people talk about any social network they almost inevitably compare it with Facebook and, given Path’s relatively tiny userbase, Path is frequently dismissed as Dave Morin’s wishful thinking. That is also a really superficial perception.
We essentially pay for our Facebook access using our personal information (demographics, preferences and connections) which Facebook uses to personalise ads we are inundated with in Facebook. That works better if we spend more time using Facebook and, in the process, giving Facebook more signals about which ads to present is with and which friends to associate with brands so we’d be more likely to click on pages and ads.
Because Path is not ad supported like Facebook, there is no need to persuade users to share anything publicly. Instead, Path is designed for privacy. Your default is to share with your connections who are preferably real friends and family members. The idea with the 150 connection limit in Path is to encourage users to focus on more meaningful and personal connections unlike on Facebook where users are constantly prompted to add more “Friends” whose value is ultimately sell more valuable ads.
When it comes to Path, having 20 connections is perfect if those 20 connections represent your real friends and family members who you most want to share your life’s moments with. Consider how many Facebook “Friends” you have. How many of those Facebook Friends would you regard as real friends? Is Facebook really a personal network or is its appeal its inertia?
Sure, Path’s utility to you is still dependent on whether the people you most want to connect with are Path users and that is likely to be the reason why most people will stick with Facebook with its overbearing ads and changing publicity settings.
It may be possible to improve your Facebook experience by trimming your list of friends and brands you follow. You should also see more updates from your Friends if you sort them into individual lists and check in with those lists (Google+ handles these lists far better with its Circles) but if you want a simple and beautiful way to share meaningfully, perhaps you should take a closer look at Path. Better yet, install it and try it out for a while. It may be what you’ve been waiting for.