The new release of the Path app for iOS and Android has created quite a positive buzz. Much of it has been centered around the very beautiful design and UI. But the app has also pivoted down a different path (I know, I should be arrested for this sentence). Path originated as a photo sharing app whose distinction was the limitation of only being able to add 50 friends to your network. The new version has now expanded from simply sharing photos by adding the ability to share location (along with who you are with), thoughts, music, and declaring when you go to sleep and wake up. They also optionally offer the ability to passively share (aka frictionless sharing) new cities you visit as updates to your stream by monitoring the gps in your phone. They’ve also increased the sharing limitation from 50 to 150 to be within Dunbar’s limitation. This post doesn’t cover the full functionality and I’ll provide a link below if you want to read the many reviews on it.
I didn’t use the first version of the app because I was happily using Instagram and the only distinction I saw between Path and Instagram is that I could invoke a “velvet rope” group of friends. I’m pretty comfortable sharing most of my content publicly so this only distinction wasn’t enough of an incentive for me. I’ve now given the new app a sophomore try and the new functionality deemed by them as a “smart journal” is an interesting new direction. This has been compared to Facebook’s timeline and I’d say that it draws some inspiration from it. The problem is that Path has the challenge of overcoming the network effect for it to become a Lifestream you can share with your closest friends. You’ll have to become an evangelist for the app by giving friends a compelling reason to add yet another social network to their daily routine.
I believe to truly use the app in the spirit it was intended for with tight friends requires an effort to treat it as a journal with private content you don’t share elsewhere. Treating it like any other social network seems to defeat the purpose. I’ve tried to use that app with that in mind, posting unique and more intimate things I don’t share elsewhere. But using the service without having many close IRL friends has left me with an awkward friending dynamic by mainly adding my early adopter tech friends whose relationships straddle that ambiguous line of acquaintance to friend. This could lead to usage that Jon Mitchell at ReadWriteWeb pointed out it as a timeline to worship the self.
But there’s another interesting aspect to Path. It has started to tread a little bit into the world of Lifelogging with the ability to track when we go to bed and wake up. The problem is that it requires you to do this manually as an action within the app. This is tied into the app functionality and far from ideal. I’ve seen many people use this feature inaccurately trying to explain their long bouts of sleeping. A few months ago I reviewed the Bodymedia armband which is one of many Quantified Self devices that are now appearing on the market. Perhaps the next iteration of Path could be integrated to work with various of these devices to provide a hybrid platform for lifestreaming and tracking that activity.
Here’s a video Robert Scoble did with the Path team. It’s almost an hour long but I’ve set it to start where they do a demo of the app.
Around 9:15 of the demo Robert notices that co-founder Dave Morin has a Jawbone Up which is a new self tracking device similar to the Bodymedia, and Fitbit. Robert asks him about possible integration between the Jawbone Up and Path to which Dave answers “That’s something we’re very interested in”. Dave talks about the trend around mobile collection of health data including workouts and sleep aimed to make us happier and healthier people. He goes on to say regarding the Jawbone Up “…we see that as a type of data we want to get into Path…it turns out to be a nice way to understand who we should be working with”. He feels that since Path is a private and trusted network that this type of data would be a good fit. Alexia Tsotsis over at TechCrunch also voiced her wish with Path integrating with her Jawbone Up.
These devices of health self awareness are still in the early stages but I believe on their way to hockey stick growth in the near future. With this there will be a slew of new web service opportunities to compliment them. I already see a need for a web service that could aggregate the data from people that own multiple devices. So if we used a Zeo to track sleep, Runkeeper to track workouts, Meal Snap to track our meals, and Withings to track our weight, we could view all of the data in a single place. This would essentially be a Mint.com for health and mark my words we’ll see this type of service coming in the near future. If Path pursues this type of integration at least across a few simple data points with multiple health device integration they could be a first mover in this area and clearly have a distinction between anything on the market right now. This could provide a compelling reason for people to use it.
Here’s my original post about Path on Google+ which also provides links to many of its reviews.