The 'miraculous' re-launch of the 'anti-Facebook': A guide to 'Path'

After a major overhaul, an app that emphasizes "trusted relationships" over having 500 "friends" may be the future of social networking

Path is a mobile-only social network
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Path originally made headlines as the "anti-Facebook" when it launched as a photo-sharing app in late 2010, famously limiting users' connections to close friends and family (with a hard cap of 50 connections). Yet after Google offered a reported $100 million to buy Path and was declined, momentum slowed and user interest began to wane. But now with a refocused mission and a beautifully redesigned interface (click to watch a demo here), Path has seen tremendous growth since its re-launch in late November, with nearly 30 times the number of daily active users it'd seen previously. With Facebook users skeptical of Timeline, could Path be the future of social networking? Here's what you should know:

What is Path?

It's a free, mobile-only social network available for both Android and the iPhone. But instead of limiting sharing to photos like Instagram, Path encourages users to share what its creators call "moments" — your thoughts, photographs, locations, music, people you're with, or even what time you wake up and go to sleep — now with up to 150 "trusted relationships." The interface is "absolutely stunning" and "simple," says Jeff Harper at the Chronicle Herald. While Facebook has "all your aunts and uncles," Path is about sharing more intimately with "people that really matter in your life."

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And it's been doing really well since the relaunch?

Though Path still has "kinks it needs to iron out," the launch "is a success," says Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch. In two and a half weeks, it's gone from 10,000 to 300,000 daily active users, with 12 moments shared every second. While it took a year for the company to get its first million users, over 1.5 million people have downloaded the new and improved Path. "These numbers are encouraging," says Tsotis, "miraculous even."

So Path is the future?

That's uncertain. But what is a sure bet is that it's "fundamentally different from Facebook," says Rafe Needleman at CNET — an alternative some will welcome. Path's founders explicitly state that the company "will never sell [user] data to advertisers," and the app's emphasis on tight relationships eliminates many of the problems with oversharing acquaintances. Essentially, Path is what Facebook is trying to do with Timelines, "but done right."

Sources: Chronicle Herald, CNET, TechCrunch

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