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Path — Introducing The Personal Network (path.com)
115 points by ssclafani on Nov 15, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

The production quality here is really really good.

However, I agree with the excellent presentation posted here a while ago 'The Real Life Social Network' (http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-networ...) that the issue isn't number of people I want to share with. The issue is that the groups of people I want to share content with are completely separate. There are a number of pictures I would be happy to share with all my friends but would not want to share with my parents, or pictures that would be relevant to share with my co-workers but not all my friends. Until that issue is solved I'll continue to not share as much as I would were I to have more flexible (and easy to use) permissions.

Yeah… we completely agree. The idea of a "personal network" is definitely right but the real problem is that not everyone fits the same mold of "friends". much less a subset of 50 people? do you give your cousin the cliff over your coworker of 5 years for that 50th spot?

The notion of "clustered social graphs" where you can share and update what you want/when you want and ignore/archive/or leave when you are done is more accurate on how people interact.

The Frid.ge has been contemplating how this maps out as a mobile experience and sharing what you want when you want with who you want. How is that limited to just a one group of people all the time?

I agree with your reference to the 'Real Life Social Network', and I'd also point out that keeping your groups separate is a hard problem to solve. To execute, you have to have something that's easy, simple to use, opaque when you want it to be (and vice versa), and you have to model the way your groups see each other (or can they? Should they?). I'm very interested to see who finally manages to find the solution to that (and what that solution might possibly look like.)

What about a tab for each Path share group indicating which friends you share photos with? If you want to share photos with "work: medium-good friends" you can and insure that the "work: ok friends" or "family: mom's side" don't get the same post. I feel like the hard problem is not to keep groups separate, but to re-factor existing infrastructure to support separation and making it 'easy' for users.

I feel the hardest part is making it easy for users. Facebook has offered lists and groups for a long time, and it's fairly easy to post something to just a specific list. However, I found that the difficult part is the housekeeping of these different groups.

Even if you take the time to create lists for your different social groups, these groups will evolve over time, because of new friendships, fights or whatever; which means that you need to spend time maintaining who belongs to what group. That will generally not happen.

The other solution is to rely on intelligent systems that manage your groups (Facebook could do that kind of things based on who interacts with whom, and what kind of subjects, etc.) or who sees what (Facebook already kind of does that from the point of view of showing you what you will find interesting, not what other can or not see at all) but relying completely on systems like that is difficult and scary, and will still hinder sharing stuff blindly.

things starting/stopping - groups, interests, friends is actually a good thing and what keeps things interesting.

things coming and going should be a feature not a flaw of the way people interact online...

And there's almost certainly content that you would want to share with multiple groups, but you'd then not want the feedback/comments from those individual groups to be visible across all groups.

LiveJournal solved all these problems years ago (at least, I found it easy to use).

That worked because social computing was still on the fringe and its relatively small user base only intersected one of our social spheres. If our parents had had livejournals, we would have had this problem.

www.frid.ge is working on solving exactly this problem.

Email solved this problem 20 years ago.

No, it didn't. If you're sharing pictures via email, you're doing it wrong.


Would anyone care about this if it wasn't launched by highly visible Facebook alums?

Quality should be judged on merit, not who made them.

If there's magic here, somebody lift the kimono.

I don't believe you don't take into account who makes something in judging it, at least initially. Few things are impressive on day 1, either because they actually aren't that impressive or because it often takes more than 1 day to understand an impressive thing. Who makes something is a good way to understand the thing faster, and I don't think that's the least bit unreasonable.

Just launched startups are not static pieces of art to be "judged on merit." They are about iteration and execution. At this stage the team is more important than the product.

I don't think they would care. I can't remember how many times I pitch Twitalbums.com to news outlet (specifically to TC) and I'm still waiting for my post ;-) Granted: it was not built for the Iphone, but it was a Twitter app, I mean, a twitter app... you have got to cover that :-)

It's about leverage. If they can build equal or better things than what they built inside of Facebook, it makes it easy and likely for Facebook to acquire them. At best Facebook can copy them, but then they are chasing their own tail. If path doesn't get acquired by FB, they can sell to someone else who wants to get some FB-like magic, or shoot for the moon and become a destination in their own right.

I didn't even know that -- and was impressed with the build quality (or at least of their site, installing the app now)

I like the idea of a more limited social network. Or better yet, one with tiers. I hesitate adding people on facebook if I don't know them that well. It would be cool if adding them didn't automatically give them "friend" access level.

"Would anyone care about this if it wasn't launched by highly visible Facebook alums?"

Reputation and association are forms of merit (or demerits) accumulated by people. For example, people often pre-order books based on the author.

This may not have surfaced as quickly on HN if it wasn't launched by highly visible Facebook alums, but I read the post, installed the app, and setup an account before I saw this comment.

It all looks quality from here.

I wonder how much of their funding they spent on the domain name.

I kind of like the idea, and the world is becoming ripe for a simpler Facebook, but christ - I can only imagine the difficult conversations about why I didn't reciprocate when someone 'pathed' me. "Sorry, you're not in my top 50".

The limit of 50 does seem like a bit of an awkward conversation waiting to happen. Surely someone must have pointed out to the developers that someone out there has a large close family and a lot of close friends?

I'd also be very worried about the even more difficult conversation: "sorry, you were in my top 50, but I've bumped you for my new friend Dave"

In some ways it's an extension of the old MySpace cliche of the original top 8. I'm sure lots of teens have had arguments caused by the addition or removal of people from someone's top 8.

What do you think people told the Twitter guys about 140 characters? ;)

If it were 15, I would have to put the kind of thought into picking friends that I put into picking words on Twitter. 50 seems merely inconvenient.

I doubt more than 50 people care about my personal photos anyway. It doesn’t sound limiting enough to make it a new kind of thing. I could easily be wrong.

Punctuation that I have to remove from a tweet doesn't have feelings that get hurt.

The "Twitter guys" had a reason to make twitter use 140 characters since twitter initially was built solely for use with SMS and they had to deal with SMS's 160 character limit. 140 for the tweet and 20 for your twitter handle. As others have stated 50 is an arbitrary number.

"We chose 50 based on the research of Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, who has long suggested that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships that the human brain can sustain at any given time. Dunbar’s research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly 3. So while we may have 5 people whom we consider to be our closest friends, and 20 whom we maintain regular contact with, 50 is roughly the outer boundary of our personal networks. These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives."

You are right on in this comparison. The limitation may be brutal, but it is simple and effective. Path is an "inner circle", and people should think of 50 as a high number they are unlikely to ever reach.

Good point - limits sometimes gives very interesting results.

You can get a nice TLD for a reasonable price.

And engineers are a heck of a lot more expensive than a catchy TLD.

I would estimate 100-500k, or a stock deal at around 5%

closest comparable I found is routes.com for 100k

It looks like they scrapped their original idea. ReadWriteWeb reported in February based on a Google cache of the site before it was locked down that Path was "a tool that facilitates the creation, sharing and correlation of lists."

"The site so far is a list of lists. You make a list, give it a name and add items to it. Then you can see who else has made a list with the same name, what's on their list and what the most popular items are across all lists with the same name. Lists are things like "best coffee in San Francisco," or "evil corporations."


Somehow I was more excited about the list idea. I thought they'd build a really solid version of http://listiki.com/

Oh well, maybe we haven't seen everything yet.

So these guys who were big names at facebook leave facebook to found... a social network?

And the only major difference is that you can only have 50 friends...

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

The number of poor products that quote has been used to justify...

Yeah, I don't understand what problem this solves. Seems better suited for a Facebook feature than a separate site.

I wonder if they pushed this out of the door because of the traction that Instagram is picking up right now. It feels very similar, although not as refined at this point.

I'm surprised they launched it right before Facebook's big email announcement. Seems like that announcement may overshadow anything else "social" that comes out today.

Looks interesting. I'm not a social-network user -- I closed my Facebook account a couple of months ago, and I've never used Twitter -- but this I could see using.

That could be the bad news: the site might appeal most to those like me who value our privacy -- and I'm not sure how many of us are left :)

But I'm not an iPhone user either. Currently using a Pre but contemplating a switch to Android.

The idea of a personal network is a good one but the problem is that there isn't just 1 personal network but clusters of networks. how do you address the different type of interaction in a limited network of only 50?

For anyone trying to take down Facebook, this presentation (link below) on real life social networks by Paul Adams (Senior User Experience Research, Google) is a must consume. A social network that forces you to bin friends based on groups you create, and forces all interactions in terms of the groups would be a huge step forward.


I absolutely love both the concept and execution of this. I hope it offers some of the intimacy that Facebook eschews.

My only gripe? 50 is too many "friends." I doubt many of us interact meaningfully with 50 people in a given week, let alone in a given day.

I also wonder how much more users would be willing to share if 50 became 10.

So another photo sharing app but with some personal network theory wrapped around it in its limitations?

These guys have been working on this for a long time, and atm the app looks like a prototype. In the interim instagram and a dozen other services went out, launched, and gained traction.

You can talk about the network theory stuff but most users aren't interested in that

I hate being Mr Negative, I am just a bit underwhelmed considering the hype - these guys have already been covered a lot in the national mainstream press

Here's what will kill this:

When a social network starts, its membership is sparse. Not everyone uses it, and the odds that your best friends will all pick up and use it off the bat are improbable. Therefore, in the lonely wasteland of a newly colonized social network, people tend to make friends with acquaintances. Of course, you're not super good friends with these people, but it would be rude to deny their requests as well.

What do you do when your real friends finally show up? Frump your acquaintances? Sure, you weren't really good friends with these people, but you don't want to isolate yourself from them either. Frumping/defriending/depathing actively demonstrates to them that the budding friendship you could have had is not there. People in real life move on, but they also get back in touch too. Having to squeeze back into someone's "path" is unnatural. Sure, it happens in real life, but to have to actively mimic that on a website--what if you are overestimating the value another person sees in you? That could have disastrous consequences. I don't maintain 500+ friendships at once, but I wouldn't want to tell 500 people "sorry, we're not friendly enough to be pathed."

Path really seems to have a flawed premise. Considering the hype, they've probably got quite a big chunk of funding too. I see it degenerating into a popularity contest--social groups have an ebb and flow, but they rarely have official declarations. What happens when people wander apart? Do you declare, "our friendship is not important enough to be in my path anymore?" I could never imagine doing that to anyone. What if you have forty relatives you'd like to keep in touch with? Can you only have ten friends?

The photo wars are heating up: Dailybooth, instagram, picplz, path, etc... exciting!

(I am an investor in both dailybooth and picplz)

Do you think picplz can beat instagram to having an API? I'd like to give this user an alternative: http://ourdoings.com/burgerlife/

This is possibly the worst name for an iPhone app one could choose. It's like on page three of the app store when I search for "path".

Overall I like the concept, but my main gripe is that if you don't have an iPhone the web-based service is useless.

I can't add any friends even if I know their url - I can only hope they add me. I'd have thought letting people add friends by visiting their url on the website would be a reasonable feature of even the most basic MVP iteration.

As it stands the web site is useless to non-iPhone users and so I don't see why they bothered to launch that aspect.

I agree. I couldn't work out how to add people - no import from Google or Facebook or whatever. While I do believe in release early, these guys may have blown it only because of how much attention they have (or had).

So after making my comment, I went and wrote this:


Their login page is https by default! Well, that's one thing better than facebook...

This app not available in the Australian iTunes store... I wonder why? Is it only available in the US? Is this short term? (i imagine so)

The rationale for the 50 person limit is:

> Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal.

But as others have pointed out, 50 is just an arbitrary number. There might be more than 50 people someone is happy to see a photo, or there might be less. For risque photos, someone may only want a subset of their friends to see it. A better system would be to allow users to have multiple overlapping subsets of visibility, with one being the default.

Practically all of us carry a camera phone,

not all of us an Apple one. should I feel sorry I'm not your target or you should be sorry because you restrict a social network to one platform?

Have they stated that they're an iPhone only platform? Are there no plans to develop an Android version? A Windows version? From the blog post they say, "We’re launching first on the App Store on iPhone." implying versions for other mobile platforms will be available in the future.

Don't mistake limited resources for a decision to be iPhone only. In my experience, iPhone development tends to be significantly faster than on other platforms. Both because of the ubiquity of information about the iOS SDK and the learning curve necessary to learn a mobile platform is lower than Windows or Android.

IMHO a photo-sharing app with social features it shouldn't be platform-specific from the beginning. I wish them good anyways and I'm curious if/how fast will this product succeed. Twitter has succeeded on it's limit of 140 chars, maybe this one will do it too on it's 50 friends, the idea seems kind of cool and simple.

Sure, but of all the arguments for native-apps, seamless integration with camera taking functionality is a worthy one.

To build something that integrates with the camera requires platform-specific solution (says a disgruntled but understanding Android user who can't use Path yet either)

> not all of us an Apple one

Which is probably why they are looking for an Android developer: http://twitter.com/path/status/26431179050

and blackberry

But no mention of Windows Mobile 7....

too nascent i imagine

If so, obviously there should be some info about other releases comming.

"...via the photos you take every day with your mobile device.

We’re launching first on the App Store on iPhone. If you do not have an iPhone, you can still register and check out Path through your browser."

I took this to mean that they're definitely planning on releasing for other platforms.

Just look at their jobs page (http://www.path.com/jobs), they are actively looking for iOS/Android/BlackBerry/Web engineers.

They probably released this earlier than they were supposed to because of instagram (http://instagr.am/) and that's why they are currently missing other platforms.

The feedback feature of conspicuously showing who's seen a photo is interesting. It prevents people from lurking -- you're always visible to the people who's content you're seeing. This seems, IMO, more interesting than the 50 friends limit.

I wonder if it will make people think twice about opening a photo, knowing that that action will be logged publicly and conspicuously. I also wonder if it'll come with an on-off switch analogous to facebook and linkedin's profile views feedback.

I wondered recently on HN if there was an idea around a social network that limited the number of friends/contacts you made:


One respondent suggested that this would limit growth. If a cap of 50 doesn't quite limit growth, I wonder if it's different enough to Facebook that it might have any success?

This is quite interesting (and sorry for the long post)

About three years ago I started working on a sharing engine that offers what Path seems to be offering. Three years later and two startups (built using that sharing engine) closed, I can share a few thoughts (and a couple of stories):

Sharing Engine: We thought sharing was broken. Privacy, permissions, different media files, social networks all around were making things complicated for the average user, etc.

We had this situation at home were my sister just had her first son. She was living in Madrid and my folks back at home in Venezuela.

They wanted updates of their grandson and my sister wanted to send pictures, videos, etc. about him but there was no “definitive” way to do it.

She wanted the sharing experience to be private (or at least we thought so. In retrospect I think we assumed she wanted this) and there wasn't a simple way to do this.

We sat down and came up with this sharing engine that was going to be unique and was going to allow her (and many like her) to share her sons life (and her own) with whomever she wanted, have complete control and was going to be incredibly simple to use. After many brainstorming sessions we finally found the perfect combination:

Users were allow to create their own sharing contexts (in the first startup their were called "buckets" and in the second they were called "albums"). These contexts were by invitation only: only the people you gave access to that context could "interact" with the media inside the context.

These contexts had a set of rules (permissions) that were unchangeable once the contexts was created: the reasoning here is that if you invite someone to that context and the person joins, it's doing so based on a certain promise* Available in every platform: Desktop, web, mobile.

This simple, yet powerful combination gave birth to what I personally think holds more value that the engine it-self: what I called the “smart news feed”. This new smart news feed, was smart because it only showed what was really interesting to me. And between you and me, it was not really smart per-se, it was just that you only received notifications from the contexts you were a part of.

This had two mayor benefits:

-My news feed only showed activity (comments, uploads, etc) about the contexts I was a part of.

-I was 100% sure that people, not part of a context would receive notifications of my activities in that specific context.

For example:

I had a context that I shared with my folks. We shared pictures, funny videos, football news, etc (my dad loves Football: Go Napoli!)

I also had a context that I shared with my wife. The contents of this contexts were quite different from the one I shared with my folks.

Here is where the newsfeed was important: My folks only got notifications of my activities in the context we shared but not on those activities I did on the context I shared with my wife. Is quite simple, yet very powerful.

Of course this engine has a lot of neat stuff, like the ability to share all types of media you can think of, highly scalable, very fast and so much more.

About our two closed Startups:

On the first one this engine was a part of a bigger app that integrated your entire online life: mail, contacts, Calendar, RSS, IM, etc. We never officially launched so I can’t give you to much insight about the idea (the sharing part at least).

After that, we took the engine and built a Twitter app out of it: Twitalbums.com

The idea was simple: private sharing on Twitter. No one was doing this and we thought, heck let’s be the first ones to do it. The engine is built, all we need to do is connect with Twitter, put it out there and see what happens.

We did and we got some initial traction about 800 users and a review:http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitalbums_private_coll... , but looking back, a couple of things worked against us:

-Our execution was... meh. I mean, we were so focused on the engineering part, that we forgot about the user experience.

-Nature of the platform: Twitter users want to broadcast and be heard. They don’t want to share privately. It seems obvious now... but you know how it goes.

About Path and Instagr.am

I like this dichotomy, because I have actually thought hard about this two apps long before they existed.

First let’s say this: mobile is the correct approach. I think this is were you want to be with either one.

Path: is what I wanted to do with the engine we built.

However, it turns out people are social creatures (go figure!) and being social outweighs the need for privacy.

Instagr.am: is were I evolved our sharing engine (we went from private by default, to public by default, making EXTREMELY easy to be make it private). Instagr.am is going to win on the traction game but loose on the monetization one.

Could Path win on the monetization game? I think so. Closed groups have some benefits: You could display HIGHLY targeted advertising to an specific group You could identify users that get real value out of your service as a group and charge for use Etc.

However, I think the real value of private sharing (and were the money is) is in the small and medium business and how a tool like (in this case) Path could benefit to mobilize and facilitate communications between employees. I think if the offer is right business will be willing to pay for this (and employees will have no choice but to use it. Remember, Instagr.am already won the traction game)

Unfortunately their system doesn't appear to accept strong passwords. When trying to sign up with a 12 character password with symbols, while I get a green checkbox, submitting causes me to get a "Requires password" dialog.

edit: This is from within the iPhone app.

Unfortunate that they restricted their initial launch to iPhone users only.

I want to try it, but all I see is a blank page. I suspect I'll have forgotten entirely about Path by the time they launch apps for other mobile platforms (or a web interface!)

Web interface: http://path.com/

It's not useful on its own.

For whatever reason, this doesn't seem to be available in the UK app store.

57 comments and not one mentions Dunbar numbers. Surprising, I must say.

Instagram you win. The use case for path is if you don't have any self control for who you decide comes into your life on other networks. (Facebook, twitter, instagram, etc)

Props to a strong team though.

It's a bit unhandy to not use the build in contact finder. Theirs doesn't filter well.

Also, when I need to fill out my phone number, just let me pick "me" from my contact list, easier.

Kinda weird they don't have a direct link to their iOS app from their web site, isn't it?

It's the huge "Available on the App Store" button.

So 50 is the new 140?

While I agree with some of you that this probably wouldn't get nearly as much attention if there was an unknown team/investors behind it, I still find all of the negativity surrounding startups these days on HN and other sites like TechCrunch to be annoying and totally counter-productive. If you think something is stupid or lame, fine - whatever. But do you really need to tell us all about it? Why do you think any of us care? My guess is that most of these people are probably failed entrepreneurs and the only thing that makes them feel better is wishing the same failure upon others trying to make it.

As for myself, I am not particularly interested in this service and have no plans to use it, but that doesn't mean it's lame or that there's no market for it or that it can't be a success.

It would be one thing if the negativity was constructive criticism but it seems to be extremely whiny and angry in tone.

Yes, that's what I meant. Constructive criticism is fine and is much appreciated by most parties, but most of the comments I read (this story is a perfect example) are just proclaiming that something is stupid and will certainly fail.

I think here is where pg would say that these things come in waves. Give it time and it will quiet down.

That's a lot of text, I thought. Yet I ended up reading all of it. Interesting. Looks pretty. Can I be arsed? Will I not care about the feelings of friend 51? Good timing after that great TEDxSD talk.

dave morin's company. he was previously head of developer platform at facebook. GREAT guy!

Their layout instantly made me think of OhLife: http://ohlife.com

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