Wow, has it been that long already? Silicon Valley is falling in love with all these new social networking toys for this reason or that. In the case of Path, one of its founding backers is Napster creator Shawn Fanning. It seems that the service is trying to straddle the line between full-blown service, a la Facebook, and a simpler photo upload solution, like Instagram, with the intent of keeping your friends list to a smaller group of fifty. I understand how Path works; what I don’t understand is if there’s some middle space for this kind of network.
For starters, Path is a mobile-only service (iOS and Android at the moment). Your updates are ‘moments’ and consist of your thoughts, music you’re listening to, pictures you’ve uploaded, check-ins, y’know, the standard social networking fodder. You have a central stream for all your friends and a personal ‘path’ that serves as your wall. You can’t post on others’ paths, but you can react to others’ moments with a variety of emoticons, rather than the standard ‘Like’. It’s a lightweight app that keeps mostly to itself, but several options allow you to share with Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. The advantage is that you’re not going to see many of the ‘bulky’ updates of a service like Facebook and you’re not going to get the sheer chaos of a Twitter stream.
But if I’m going to going to upload my photos to Facebook anyway, why wouldn’t I just use Facebook? Why would I splinter my library of pictures? Why would I check-in to Path when I use Foursquare, which works just fine with Facebook? Why would I hunt for individual songs to post when Spotify does that for me automatically? It’s the Google+ problem: why would I want to work harder to share information to far fewer people? I imagine keeping it as a ‘hidden’ private account makes sense, I guess, but I don’t see the appeal.
It’s nice that Ron Conway and other Valley VCs are on top of this, and it’s a charming application, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t understand how this, in any way, subverts my current happiness with Facebook, which works harder to channel out the noise from the signal all the time.