Mike Isaac

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Path and Nike FuelBand Pair Up, Flaunting the Benefits of a Private API

Facebook and Twitter rose to prominence in part because they played so nicely with others. Yes, the sites were great products first. But they became even better platforms, opening their application programming interfaces to let third-party developers integrate their services. And as the platform era matured, open APIs practically became en vogue.

But there is still value in being exclusive.

Path, for instance, is perhaps a prime example of this. It has an API, though it currently only has a single announced partner: Nike. On Friday, the company announced a small update in the partnership, adding integration between Nike’s FuelBand fitness tracking bracelet and the private social network. Path publishes a summary of your FuelBand activity in the form of an interactive graph at the end of each day, complete with included data points on where and when you’ve checked in using Path.

Ultimately, the aim is a mix of motivation and geeking out on data — you can see how close you’ve come to your daily exercise goal, while simultaneously tracking all the places, activities and reasons why you achieved it (or why you didn’t). It’s incremental, building on the previously announced partnership between the two companies when Path first started publishing Nike+ running route updates.

However small an update, it’s also an indicator of Path’s API partnership strategy as a whole. When Path first spoke of its API, the plan wasn’t to open it up to the masses — it was, and remains, a private API, with partners selected in terms of which ones make sense for the company to work with, and which ones make for a better user experience.

“We want to improve the experience for the collective users of both apps,” Path CEO Dave Morin told me in an interview on Thursday, “which is why we’re selective about who we’re partnering with.”

That selectivity means more time is spent on the integration, making the content in a user’s stream actually more attractive. The new FuelBand graphs are sleek, offering users granular information about their fitness activity in a polished interactive graphic. That’s more than can be said for some apps that show up in Facebook’s News Feed, even after Open Graph integration.

“We’re driven by quality,” Morin said. “We’re driven by design.”

And ultimately, the better and prettier the content is that shows up in the stream, the more users will actually want to engage with the product on a regular basis. Quality begets stickiness, and stickiness begets a company with a better chance at surviving.

We’ll no doubt see more companies partnering with Path in the future. My hunch says it’ll be a slow, steady ramp up over time, with Path being selective about who it wants to work with.

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