Path.com Is Banking on Users' Confidence in Confidants
The debut last week of the personal networking site Path may have been overshadowed by the announcement of Facebook's new capacity as a communication hub , but Path has the potential to be the Next Big Thing.
Path.com — which has been called "anti-Facebook" — touts itself as a personal site rather than a social networking one. It's all about "no following, no friending, just sharing," and it limits its users to 50 friends.
The company mantra is that if you wind up sharing information with even a single person you do not trust, you will not feel comfortable.
"We have a different focus from Facebook and Twitter," Matt Van Horn, Path's vice president of business development, told TechNewsDaily. "The personal network doesn’t replace your existing social networks; it’s complementary to them."
Path registration requires your phone number so people can find you, and it shows you who has looked at your latest photos. Information is intended to flow freely, without the need of being filtered.
The limit of 50 friends was based on the research of Robin Dunbar, an Oxford professor of evolutionary psychology. Dunbar is known for suggesting that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships the human brain can sustain simultaneously.
Dunbar's research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly three. So 50 is roughly the outer boundary of someone's most-personal network.
"These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives," according to Path.com.
But does having a trusted inner circle mean there will be more privacy on the site than on the Facebooks of the world?
"We have taken privacy very seriously in building the site," Van Horn said. "We believe that only people you have explicitly shared with should have access to your information.
"For example, we only let users tagged in photos see that photo on Path, not friends of friends. On Facebook, the average user has 55,000 friends of friends that have access to a typical tagged photo. However, a photo on Path can only be shared with a maximum of 50 people."
The site indicates that it will still use personal information to serve ads — as social networking sites typically do — and Path doesn't deny there are opportunities for marketers here.
"Because people are posting such immense amounts of information about their lives, there could be more opportunities for brands to talk to Path users in a more personal way than they ever have before," Van Horn said.
A mobile app for Path is available via the Apple App Store.
Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN
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