Evolutionary Path from a Personal Network to a Smart Journal

These days, everybody loves Path. Tech connoisseurs and casual users alike have given the latest Path mostly positive reviews. Path 2 is definitely one of the most beautiful apps of 2011!

A little more than a year ago, Path was quite a different app. Path, which is founded by Dave Morin, ex-Facebook executive (co-inventor of Platform and Connect on Facebook) and Shawn Fanning (creator of Napster), differentiated itself from the prevailing conception of social networks by being ultra private. Today, Path is a marvelously designed app encapsulating the symbiosis of personal-public (with personal being the default). Path is one of the first high-profile apps that address privacy within the social networking context. Now, let’s look at some of the key moments of Path product evolution.

A Personal Network

Path 1.0 was launched on November 15, 2010. At its core, Path is a social photo sharing app. However, the app positioned itself as a personal network. You don’t follow or add friends on Path. Instead, you share moments (photos/videos) with your friend. If she accepts it, your moments will appear on her Path stream.

It is designed for users to share stuff with a small circle of friends. User can only add up to 50 friends. Why 50? Path explained:

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.

Path 1.0 was already good. The tap photo to expand vertically was an especially graceful feature. Posting photo on Path was pleasantly fast and easy. However, I disliked the idea of rigidly categorizing each posting to People, Place or Thing. And the use of relative dates (i.e. 23 days ago) rather than absolute dates (i.e. Dec 21 2010) on each photo made it hard to quickly recall when exactly the photo was taken. Then, many disliked Path including Om Malik of GigaOM.

Path 1.0 version features include:

  • Capture and share “moments” (or photos) with up to 50 close friends and family.
  • Tag each moment as people, place, or thing.
  • Explore your friends’ moments on a map.
  • See who has viewed the photos.
  • Tap to horizontally expand photos.

Moments in the Stream

Share a Moment in Places

Video of Path 1.0

On Becoming More Social Friendly

In the ensuing months, Path introduced various enhancements and features on its app. Notably, in Path version 1.5, released on April 15, 2011, users can finally share photos and videos on Facebook Wall. Previously, photos can only be shared to friends and family on Path. Path 1.5 also introduced lenses for users to stylized photos and videos. Activity function was introduced to enhance greater visibility of friends’ reactions to your shared moments.

Path 1.5 version features include:

  • Activity: Seeing how your friends respond to you.
  • FriendRank: Guessing your top friends by analyzing your Facebook interactions.
  • Lenses: Free and premium lenses to style photos and videos in real time.
  • Share: Able to post photos and videos on Facebook Wall.

Private / Public Share Switch

Style your Moments with Lenses

Disruptive Path

After version 1.5 release and unimpressive uptake, the Path team went back to the drawing board and asked “Okay, what are people really using Path to do?” For the next six months, the team re-imagined Path.

On November 29, 2011, Path 2.0 was unveiled. The latest iteration is a total makeover of Path. It is now a smart journal. The app now comes with an expanded sharing capability. Users can now share status updates on popular social networks namely, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr.

Path has evolved from a personal network for photo / video sharing to become a social diary. You can now log your social activities and thoughts, in the forms of photo, video, text, song, and location check-ins on Path. Friends’ list also expanded from 50 to 150 (150 is the commonly used value of Dunbar’s number). Despite the makeover, privacy remains the bedrock of Path.

The Swiss-Army Knife of Your Online Social Life

Path launched With app in June 07 2011, which enables users to share who they are with, what they doing on Twitter. The With feature is now embedded into Path 2.

Other “old” features like photo-taking, lenses, weather (appearing on status updates, and awake-sleep postings) and Activity are still available on Path 2.0.

Path 2.0 is a successful release. Users are now sharing an average of 12 moments per second and Path is “seeing 30x the number of daily active users, going from 10K to 300K in two and a half weeks.” (Source: TechCrunch)

Path 2.0 version features include:

  • Design: A totally transformed user interface.
  • Share Path stories on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
  • Post Check-ins on Path and also, Foursquare.
  • Tell your friends what are you listening to right now.
  • Post status updates.
  • Increased friends count from 50 to 150.
  • Photos: All photos are now in full-view mode (no longer tap-to-reveal-all).

Profile Cover on Path

An Entry in Path Journal

Status Updates Pop-up

Video on Path 2.0

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