Path is the better personal network you've been waiting for

Path – Share Life from Path on Vimeo.

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.


  1. Nathan Jeffery avatar

    One thing that would be a great add on is a desktop experience.

    1. Paul avatar

      Perhaps. Not having a desktop interface possibly keeps Path more embedded in day to day life because you can only really use it as you experience your life. Desktop experiences can be islands away from everything else which isn’t necessarily the ideal context.

  2. Stephen Tive Pirrie (@Tive) avatar

    I dig Path. But it never worked. So before Instagram blew up all my friends were on it. They also loved it. But notifications didn’t work. So people didn’t get validated after they posted. So they stopped using it. Then Instagram grew and blew it out of the water. I’m gutted that such a beautiful design can get let down by such a simple instability. I’m struggling to get people back onto it’s richer, more intimate, platform. Sad really.

    1. Paul avatar

      Thanks for your thoughts, Stephen. Hopefully Path will win enough people over to turn the tide.

      1. Stephen Tive Pirrie (@Tive) avatar

        I hope so. I really do!

  3. […] a mere 833 moments. I’ve been thinking about Path quite a bit in the last few months and why it stands out as a better social sharing option, in […]

  4. […] Ello is the latest attempt to forge a social network compelling enough to lure Facebook’s entrenched masses. It is also the latest in a line of social services which seem to be looking for a solution to problems that Facebook users aren’t interested enough in to address with their digital feet: Facebook’s intricate use of its users’ personal information to keep the social engine running. As I wrote a few months ago in my post titled “Path is the better personal network you’ve been waiting for”: […]

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