Path: Photo-sharing social setwork isn't very social

Service strives for exclusivity over volume in search of a higher quality social network site.

As if we needed another one, Path was launched yesterday, a new social network built around photo-sharing, smartphones and exclusivity. Path is founded on a great idea: building a social network around photographs. It has potential, but this early version of Path seems a bit underdeveloped -- pun intended.

Path comes with many restrictions, and the most glaring one is that users can only have 50 friends at a time -- opposite of the add-everyone mentality that characterizes other social networks, especially Twitter.

"We chose 50 based on the research of Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, who has long suggested that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships that the human brain can sustain at any given time," Dave Morin, formerly an executive at Facebook and Apple, wrote on the company blog.

I suppose that's an impetus to add only your besties, rather than spammy old high school classmates who'll only take photos of their children and cats.

Morin started Path with Shawn Fanning, the co-founder of Napster. Like the social timeline-based memory aggregator Memolane -- which is centered on creating a story out of your social networking experience, rather than a mishmash of disparate postings -- Path aims to spin a yarn with photographs.

Sounds pretty neat, right? Not according to the blogosphere, which isn't giving Path a lot of slack.

GigaOM finds Path's exclusivity obnoxious and far too limiting, giving the network "the utility of a toy poodle."

Because Path doesn't connect to Twitter, Facebook, or other photo-sharing sites such as Shutterfly -- or other sites at all -- TechCrunch doesn't see much of a future. "It is oddly passive for a social app. You put up photos, see other people's photos, and that's it. No discussion allowed," Erick Schonfeld writes.

"There are no reciprocal friend relationships, no likes or comments, no fun photo-editing filters, no publishing photos to services like Facebook and Flickr, no editing something after you post, and no global user search (you have to know the email or phone number for anyone you want to add)," Liz Gannes writes on AllThingsDigital.

ReadWriteWeb lists 10 things you can't do on Path, including the inability to: publish photos from your phone's camera roll; add friends on the web site, even if they've already added you; navigate by the tags you've added to photos; and more.

So without any true social networking aspects, what's the point?

Add to the 50-friend maximum the fact that, at this juncture, the only way to use Path is through the iPhone app. The iPhone is popular, and millions of people have one, but it's not the only smartphone out there. Bypassing Android was a bad move for Path's debut.

In fact, there's a lot about Path's debut that seems rushed and not very well thought out. We'll see if the media backlash lights a fire under Morin and Fanning to add more functionality and ease restrictions, or if people are willing to adopt Path as is.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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