A Look Back at the Social Networking App Called Path

Path was great for keeping in touch with smaller networks

Path was discontinued as a social networking service on October 1, 2018. This article about Path is here for reference and information purposes.

If you've ever heard of the Path social networking app and wondered what it was, how it was used, and what happened to it, here's a look at the application and its features. Was it a good alternative to Facebook, and why was it discontinued?

The Path app icon.

About the Path Mobile App

Path was a mobile app for iPhones and Android devices that launched in November of 2010. It served as a personal journal for connecting and sharing with close friends and family. Path founder Dave Morin, a former Facebook executive, said the app gave users a place to "capture all the experiences on their path through life."

With Path, users created a multimedia timeline, called a path, consisting of updates and interactions between friends and family. They could also follow the personal paths of others and interact with them. In many ways, the Path app was similar to the look and functionality of the Facebook Timeline feature.

Path was available exclusively through the Apple App Store and the Android Market (now known as the Google Play Store), offering no web version.

How Was Path Different From Facebook Timeline?

Over the years, Facebook has grown to become an internet behemoth. Many users have several hundred friends or subscribers on Facebook. Users are encouraged to add as many friends as they can and share everything they experience. Facebook has evolved into a hyper-sharing platform of information for the mass public.

While Path offered a similar platform and comparable functionality to Facebook Timeline, the app wasn't designed for mass, public sharing. Path was truly a social media app designed for smaller, closer groups of friends. With a friend cap of 150 people on Path, users were encouraged to connect only with people they trusted and knew well.

Path initially limited each user's social network to 50 people, raised it to 150, then removed the limit entirely.

What Type of User Liked Path?

Path was an ideal app for anyone who felt overwhelmed by the massive growth or large personal networks that Facebook generated. The Path app catered to those who wanted a more private way to share experiences only with the people who mattered most to them.

If users were reluctant to share or interact on Facebook because they felt it was too crowded and not intimate enough, inviting their closest friends to connect with them on Path was a good alternative.

Path App Features

Path's features were similar to Facebook Timeline's features. Its interface was clean, well-organized, and optimized for mobile. Here's a look at its main elements.

  • Profile Photo and Cover Photo: Users set a profile picture and a larger top cover photo (comparable to the Facebook Timeline cover photo), which was displayed on their personal path.
  • Menu: The menu listed all the sections of the app. The Home tab displayed a user's activity and their friends' activity in chronological order. Users could choose Path to view their path, and Activity to see their recent interactions.
  • Friends: Users could choose Friends to view a list of their friends and tap any one of them to view their path.
  • Update: After pressing the Home tab, a red-and-white plus sign appeared in the lower-left corner of the screen. Users pressed this to choose what kind of update they wanted to make on their path.
  • Photo: Users could snap a photo directly through the Path app or choose to upload one from their phone's photo gallery.
  • People: Users could choose the People icon to share who they were with at the time by selecting their name from the network.
  • Place: Path used GPS tracking to display a list of places near a user so they could check in, similar to Foursquare. Users could also choose the Place option to tell their friends where they were.
  • Music: Path was integrated with iTunes search, allowing users to search for an artist and song easily. Users could use the search function to find the song they were currently listening to and select it to display it on their path. Friends could then look it up on iTunes to enjoy it for themselves.
  • Thought: The Thought option allowed users to write a text update on their path.
  • Awake & Asleep: This moon icon allowed users to tell their friends what time they were going to sleep or what time they were waking up. Once selected, their awake or asleep status would display along with their location, the time, the weather, and the temperature.
  • Privacy & Security: While there didn't seem to be any customizable privacy settings on Path, the app was private by default and gave users total control of who could see their moments. Likewise, all Path information was stored within the Path cloud.

The Demise of Path

In 2012 and 2013, Path dealt with some controversy involving data-storage privacy and underage users. It was eventually fined $800,000 by the FTC.

By 2014, Path was struggling financially amid competition from Facebook and other social media apps and sites, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. In 2015, Path was purchased by a South Korean internet company called Kakao, and the app enjoyed niche popularity in Asia for a while.

In 2018, Snap ceased operations for good, unable to survive in a landscape dominated by much larger players. Its innovations, such as stickers and reactions, however, live on, adopted by its rivals.

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