Greener Pathtures: Part One

Note: This post is Part One in a three-part series about a social network called Path. It’s also about social networks in general and which ones are worth it. Also check out Part Two and Part Three.

This is an important quest. We are spending more and more of our time interacting with each other on the Internet. As such, I believe we must choose the highest quality methods of doing so. But which?

Second Note: Path recently came under fire for sending users’ Address Books up to their servers without consent. Path claimed this was being done to make it easy to find family and friends in the app. Path has since apologized, deleted all Address Book records, and updated the app to ask permission before accessing user contacts.

I believe Path made an honest mistake and has now done the right thing. I do not believe Path had or has malicious intent. Keep in mind that many apps have access to your data, and please do form your own opinion about this issue.

Part One: A Crazy Little Thing Called Path

Over the weekend, I tweeted that I really want to use Path, but very few people I know are on it.

It’s a shame, because Path is a gorgeous app. It’s beautifully designed in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. It’s versatile. It’s fun to use.

But it’s a social network, and unfortunately, that means it has to overcome a serious barrier to entry. In a world where Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and innumerable others reign supreme, is there room for Path?

I think yes, but we will need convincing if we are to let this relative newcomer onto our smartphones. You see, the nature of Path itself is a conundrum.

What is this “Path” you speak of?

To explain what I mean, here’s a brief overview of Path.

Path is a social network designed to help you “share life with the ones you love”. It comes in the form of a free iPhone or Android app. Think of it as your own private Facebook, only instead of friending every person you’ve ever met, you only add people who matter. Path encourages exclusivity. Or perhaps more accurately, Path encourages intimacy, as the video on their website demonstrates. It’s designed for sharing with close friends and family members. Imagine if you whittled down your 600 Facebook friends to the fifty or so you actually cared about. That’s Path, only in a much more beautiful package and without the Farmville, poking, and advertisements.

Path allows you to capture and share moments in a variety of ways. You can take a picture and apply filters (think Instagram), check into locations with people (think Foursquare or Gowalla), post a song you’re listening to (think SoundTracking or, post a thought (think Twitter), or log when you wake up or go to sleep. You can also link your Path to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Foursquare to post the same moment in different places. Watch the demo to get a good idea of what Path is all about.

As you can see, Path provides a sort of all-in-one social network, but therein lies the problem. If you already use some of the above services, why bother joining something new? And why should your friends join it?

Path’s usefulness hinges on whether or not people you know are already using the app, and so we are presented with a paradox: a social network designed for you and your closest friends, but one which many of your friends may be reluctant to join.

Can we convince ourselves to leave the raging house party of Facebook for the quiet, intimate living room of Path?

To answer that question, I’m going to examine all of my current social networks to determine whether or not there is room for Path.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two of Greener Pathtures, in which I eviscerate Facebook, fawn over Twitter, and wonder if anybody still uses MySpace.

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