Path: A Social Network in Miniature

I have too many people that aren’t my friends on Facebook. Instead of a place that allows me to share my life with my closest friends and family, Facebook feels more like a restaurant where everyone that you have ever known keeps trying to sit at your table. Old friends, friends of friends, and people that I don’t even know have all been added, deleted, replaced, and ignored.

Path aims to solve this problem. Instead of allowing (or encouraging) me to have four hundred friends, Path wants me to share with the people that really, genuinely matter to me. Is this new app (and its philosophy) going to make its way onto your phone? Let’s find out.

I Know, I Know; That Social Thing

Every app that comes out these days has some sort of social element to it. Whether it’s creating a new mini social network or leveraging the power of Twitter and Facebook, app developers are making every little thing a public affair. Whenever a new application comes out with a new social feature I feel a mixture of trepidation and excitement: I’m glad that there’s continued innovation but I’ve also grown quite jaded.

Yes, this is how another social networking app starts. It's worth launching.

Yes, this is how another social networking app starts. It's worth launching.

Path differentiates itself in a variety of ways. Not only is the concept of limiting the number of your friends (or followers, or people you encircle, or whatever) new to the social networking scene where more interaction leads to better targeted advertising, but it’s also contained in a compelling wrapper.

What Can I Share?

Path allows you to share just about anything that you may care to tell your friends and family. While I could go into how you can share your “Thoughts” (which are, essentially, status updates) or photos, I’d prefer to talk about one of the more distinct options: consciousness.

Honestly, the app is worth using just to see the Add Items animation.

Honestly, the app is worth using just to see the Add Items animation.

No, that’s not another instance of an existing word being co-opted by a social network (like “like”); Path really lets you share your current state of consciousness. And while I thought that was weird when I first launched Path, the ability to share when you’re asleep or awake makes a lot of sense once you think about it.

In the old days (by which I mean any date before 2007) it used to be that if someone wanted to reach you via IM (which has been all but replaced by Facebook messaging) or email, they had to hope and pray that you were sitting eagerly in front of your land-locked computer waiting for them. Now people can reach you at any time, in any place, with almost any method.

Updating my sleeping status.

Updating my sleeping status.

Let’s assume that your friends are considerate, though. While they can reach you any time they want, they also know that without your beauty sleep you turn into Godzilla. By sharing whether you’re asleep or awake with them, you can carve out a bit of time for yourself.

Mobile Only

One thing that may immediately put people off from Path is the fact that, at this point, it’s phone-only. There are Android and iPhone clients, but there’s no way for someone to see what you’re sharing on the desktop and no tablet experience to bridge the gap.

While the world is switching to a more mobile-centric computing experience (in plain English: people are using their phones instead of their computers) not having a desktop experience is severely limiting the number of people that a person can choose to share with. I may want to share my life with my grandfather, but because he doesn’t have an Android phone or an iPhone I won’t be able to send him anything.

This massive hole needs to be patched up before Path can go prime time. With Facebook and Twitter available on every device under the sun, Path will have to be more present in people’s lives before it can become a serious moneymaker.

Connections: Sharing With Others

Okay, so you’ve chosen the little group of contacts that you would like to have in your Path. What if, then, you decide that you would rather type something out just once (in Path) instead of multiple times (for Path, Twitter, and Facebook). Fortunately, the ability to post to Twitter and Facebook helps mitigate this issue.

Sharing on the left, private on the right.

Sharing on the left, private on the right.

When you share a Thought – or anything else, really – you can decide where else you would like to share that particular item by tapping on its (rather small) icon in the bottom right corner. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare are all included in the sharing options. You can also choose to keep an item ‘private’, blocking it from others’ views and protecting what you deem to be too intimate to share.

I like that the sharing is on a per-item basis, instead of something that you turn on or off once and move along. There are some things that I want to share on all of the social platforms that I use, and there are others that I would prefer would just remain on Path (or Facebook, or Twitter).

Closing Notes

Path is an enjoyable experience. As someone that has been attempting to tame his social experience (I’m pretty sure every time I type that something bad happens to a kitten) I can certainly relate to the less-is-more philosophy behind Path. When you have a few, trusted people to share with you’re more likely to share things of worth, rather than pictures of a penguin playing the piano.

While I’ve called Path a social network in this review, it really helps to think of it less as a Facebook or Twitter competitor and more as a journal that you share with the people that you genuinely trust. There are some things that are meant to only be shared with the people that you really, truly trust, and Path wants to be the place where you share that.

The only issue I have with Path is its relatively new status. It’s hard to convince my fiancée to sign up for Path instead of just sticking with Facebook, and it’s impossible to connect with someone that doesn’t have a smartphone. If and when those kinks are worked out there’s a really strong chance that I’d gladly abandon Facebook for Path.


Path allows you to share the moments of your life with friends and family that you are close to, and restricts you to a smaller number of users to prevent the over-friending issue that other networks have.