Monday, December 12, 2011

Travelling on the right Path



Digital folk and early adopters around the world have recently been given a new toy to play with in the shape of the latest iteration of the Path mobile app – Path2.

Path facilitates the sharing of information, locations, media and other content by its users with a fixed number of no more than 150 connections. Yawns I hear? Another Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc?

Possibly.

But Path has received huge amounts of praise online by bloggers, enthusiasts and journalists for its design. Additionally, Path is exclusively for use on the mobile, making it a true mobile social network. That in itself if pretty rare. For more information, you could look here, and my point isn’t to provide a review.

Rather, it’s a comment on the purpose of Path and similar challengers in the social network space.

We must be realistic firstly and agree that Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter & LinkedIn have the battle for MASS adoption by the GENERAL public pretty much won. I don’t include the early adopter community (such as those on Google+) here, I’m talking mums and dads, grandparents, kids…those people who are on the three big networks already.

That’s what makes them true social networks - the fact they include people from all demographics in society, and are not just the realm of the early adopters and digital geeks - that first 2.5% on Rogers Diffusion of Innovation curve. And that's what makes me wonder about articles like this, that proclaim "new network X will kill off MASSIVELY established network Y". For me, that just cannot be true.

The Paths of the world have great ideas and amazing ways of doing things, but they aren’t vastly different from what we can already do. And the rate at which this industry moves is like nothing we’ve ever seen, so with those existing networks having been around for 3, 4 even 5 years already it means challengers have got so much ground to make up before they are even level with where the established networks are right now. Notwithstanding where the established networks then might be by the time the challengers have caught up to where they are now.

Speculation is that Path is in a great position for a takeover by Facebook so the Path team can apply their expertise in mobile to build upon Facebook (what it most closely resembles) and improve their frankly awful mobile app that I’m sure many use out of necessity rather than desire. In the same way that Facebook recently purchased Gowalla.

I hope this is true. It would be shame for the thought that went in to Path2 to not be seen by the mass audience. After all, that’s what we’re talking here. And no matter what Path loyalists may think, I can’t see how 800m users will be converted by a single mobile app that does something they already do elsewhere with a connection network they’ve been building up for 5 years.

Can anyone else see a way how Path could achieve that goal? Because after all, that’s really what it has to do.

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