Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Path Tries Again, Now as a Mobile Journal App

Personal photo-sharing app Path has reshaped itself as a sort of mobile blogging tool for users to tell their close friends where they are, what they’re listening to, who they’re with, what they’re doing and even when they’re sleeping and when they’re awake.

Path 2 feels like one of the most lovingly crafted apps I’ve used, with nifty animations and careful attention paid to quickly surfacing what information a user is likely to include in a post. For instance, the app has a spring-loaded composer button for creating and sharing content that’s just a really cool and efficient experience (pictured below, but you’ll need to use it to see what I mean).

When it first launched a year ago, Path wasn’t much of a social network — users could only share with 50 people, there were no comments or even ways to share photos to Facebook — and it didn’t do anything as a mobile photo app that was different from the zillions of other options. It wasn’t a failure, but it only got about a million users, less than might be expected for such a high-profile app.

The new version of Path (for both iPhone and Android) also doesn’t offer any feature that you can’t get from other tools like Foursquare, WakeMate, SoundTracking, Facebook and Instagram, but it combines them all into one sleek interface for telling people what you’re doing.

Path has smoothed some of its awkward friending stuff out — now you can connect to 150 people, and you can friend them instead of just sending them your content. But the new app adds some more implicit and automated interactions that make it so you’d really only want to use it with your closest friends and family.

In fact, Path CEO Dave Morin says he prefers to call users’ Path connections “loved ones” rather than “friends.”

For instance, if you open Path in a place you don’t usually use the app, it will automatically send out a location update about the neighborhood where you’re located. Or if you visit other users’ profiles, they each get an in-app notification saying you came by. If you click on a song someone’s shared, you see who else has ever played it.

And yes, you can even tell the app each night when you go to sleep and then reach for it first thing to show it you’ve woken up, and all that is dutifully recorded on your profile. (Eventually Path wants to integrate with more precise self-tracking tools.)

This is the kind of sharing that would only be OK with loved ones; for anyone else, it would be more like stalking and/or inviting yourself to be stalked.

In multiple ways, the new Path echoes the latest features announced by Morin’s former employer Facebook. Each Path user now has the option to set a “cover photo” as the background of their profile, and all this automated sharing has a parallel in Facebook’s new “frictionless” tools for developers like Spotify.

Do we really want to automatically spray out updates about everything we do? Morin thinks so — but he argued it makes more sense in a private and mobile setting like Path than on Facebook.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik