The Path less traveled by…

I’ve been wanting to write an article on Path for a while. When I first discovered it this February, I signed up right away. As an amateur photographer and someone who always thinks twice before posting something on Facebook, I welcomed the levels of privacy that Path offered, as well as the simplicity of sharing moments through photos. (There’s a Kodak slogan lawsuit in there somewhere.)

Several issues prevented me from becoming as much of a Path user as I wanted. It was very difficult to find friends who also used the service. While Path did encourage me to tap into my Facebook network to recruit friends, it didn’t do much other than the usual referral screen after sign-up. I recently encountered a company that plays this referral game much better by allowing users to unlock a premium version of its service simply after inviting 5 friends. 

Even today, with a network of over 1200 friends on Facebook, I only have a handful of contacts on Path, and none of them are regular Path users. What disappoints me the most is that Path doesn’t seem to be correcting its lack of network effects – there is never a prompt or encouragement for me to return to the service (via e-mail or text), or to search my social network again to see if new friends have joined. 

Secondly, I never got around to using Path because it was also hard to share any photos without an Android app. By the time they’d released a beta version in June, I had long since abandoned trying to get this service to work for me. It’s also clear that the app needs some work; it only has a 3-star rating on the Android app market. 

When I read about Path nearing the 1 million user mark, I couldn’t help but immediately think of Eric Ries and his cautions against vanity metrics. I’m certain that a significant portion of the 1 million users are disengaged like me, and who have signed up but never regularly logged in.

There already isn’t much to do on Path, due to the lack of network effects, and Path’s simple web interface is detrimental for retraining its users at this point. Here’s a couple of immediate things that Path can integrate to increase user engagement:

  1. Target those people who already actively use photo-sharing services, such as Flickr or Instagram. Many people don’t immediately think of whipping out their cameras when something interesting is happening, but those who have adopted this habit must already be posting their photos elsewhere on the web. 
  2. Help me filter my closest friends on Facebook so that I can target, invite them, and convince them to start sharing. There is no doubt that everyone has that close circle with whom they’d love to share almost everything. (I’m currently addressing this social need with the use of GroupMe.) Path just needs to make it easier for me to move that circle onto its platform.

Path has already lost a lot of its initial steam. It’ll take a lot more than a well-positioned TechCrunch article to reinvigorate it.  

The Path less traveled by…

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