After months of rumour, new social network Path launched Monday. We’ve been playing with it a bit. It’s early days to make a lot of comments – and I suspect until I reach a critical mass of friends it’ll remain difficult to comment. Obviously though, I’m going to comment anyway.
Path calls itself the “The Personal Network”, because unlike Twitter, which encourages users to aquire large numbers of ‘followers’, it limits your personal network to just 50 users.This isn’t just being churlish though – it’s based on the thories of Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford Robin Dunbar, who reckons that 150 is the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships“. By limiting to 50, the guys at Path figure that your network will be limited to your closest friends and family and so there will be a high level of trust in the network. So far, so laudable.
But what does it actually do? Well, it’s a suite of apps (the Monday launch was the iPhone app, I would assume Android and other platforms will be available soon) that focus on sharing photos with your group of close friends. Basically, it uses location services to allow users to give their photo three pieces of contextual information: people, places and things.
So I can take a photo, tag one of my Path friends to it, use geo-tagging to say where it was taken and state the ‘thing’ which could be a noun (‘notebook’, ‘garden gnome’, ‘traffic light’ etc) or a verb (‘walking’, ‘partying’, ‘dancing’). Then I share it with my Path network. That’s it. No sharing across other social networks, no comments or ‘likes’ or hipstamatic filters, just People, Places, Things.
As I said, so far it’s kinda fun – but I need more friends to truly see how much fun it’ll be, so time will tell. One thing that strikes me starightaway though, is that the extremely personal nature of the network means that there isn’t an obvious ‘in’ here for brands. You can’t ‘broadcast’ if you can only have 50 friends, and I doubt brands would lavish the time and attention needed to maintain a social network presence on just 50 individuals – no matter how big fans they are of the brand.
On the other hand, for smart brands, there might be an opportunity. If you’re willing to give one of your limited friend spots to a brand, you have to really love them. Marketers could use Path friendship as a serious level of reward for the most engaged and dedicate fans of a brand, and friendship could come with a whole host of benefits for those lucky enough to be one of the 50. And 50 uber-advocates could be worth their weight in gold.
This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.