Path used to be a photosharing app for iPhone and Android. It’s just been reinvented as an everything-sharing app for iPhone and Android. I should start by saying I never used the original Path as it didn’t offer anything remarkably different from perennial favourite Instagram as far as I was concerned, so this isn’t going to be a comparison between Path I and Path II. I’ll treat it as a brand new app.
The first thing to say about Path is that it is beautifully designed. I mean, seriously beautiful. They way it works, the way you swipe to access Settings, add friends and view paths is fantastic. Even the way the time of a post floats into view as you scroll down your own or your friends’ paths is so well done you end up scrolling just to see it. You even get to ‘design’ your own path by adding your profile pic (which appears in a little circle) and cover pic (which fills half the screen and sits underneath your profile pic). It’s just so nice.
Then you get into the functionality. Hitting the ‘+’ icon at the bottom left of the screen gives you six options to share. A photo or video as previously, who you’re with, where you’re at, what you’re listening to, a thought and, bizarrely, whether you’re awake or asleep. In reality, many of these cross over. If you share where you’re at you’ll be asked to optionally add who you are with and leave a note, which essentially counts as a thought. Similarly if you share who you are with you can add where and a note (thought).
Not all that?
This is where my first problem with Path came in. There is no doubting that it is a great app…but it is not original. It is, in essence, a stripped out Facebook Timeline. So why, as one of over 750 million Facebook users, am I going to want to use Path? I already share this sort of information on Facebook with far more people than I can on Path.
For those without a Facebook account Path is a perfect way to share what you’re up to and who with…except if you don’t have a Facebook account isn’t it likely that you’re not going to want to share in the first place? (Yeah, I get that some people don’t like Facebook, not sharing, but they are the minority)
Having spent a few minutes on Path – and having seen that only two of my contacts are using it – I was really struggling to see what it offers that Facebook doesn’t.
There are small features such as the ability to add an ‘emotion’ to people’s posts (albeit only five), the fact it automatically posts if you go to a different city (if you don’t want it to, you can turn this off) and the fact you can see when people have visited your path or seen your posts. But none of these really set it apart from Facebook.
I really want to give Path a glowing review but I just can’t. I’ll tell you how well made and good looking it is all day long but what I won’t do is recommend you download it for actual use. Because you won’t use it. You’ll share your activities on Facebook like you always have, you’ll add your photos to Instagram and you may even check in on Foursquare but you are not going to add yet another sharing app to your arsenal unless it offers something significantly different.
Path doesn’t. And it’s a damn shame, it really is.
What if you look at Path from a completely different angle? It lets you post your updates to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare…all at once if you so wish. So what if you look at Path as a social media management tool? Not in the same way you’d look at Hootsuite or similar, because Hootsuite and the like are not social networks in and of themselves like Path is. But as the network to rule all networks. One network to rule them all.
Now Path begins to make sense. Imagine this. You’re at a sports event with a couple of friends, say a football match. You take a quick snap of the players coming onto the field, post it to Path, tagging the people you’re with and adding the location. You tap to post to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and with just one ‘check in’ you’ve updated four social networks in the manner you would have done anyway.
From that point of view Path becomes very, very useful indeed. It still needs work, however. While your Foursquare check in is handled very well (though I’m unclear as to whether or not you get your Foursquare points by checking in via Path – I suspect not), the post to Twitter and Facebook merely contains a link to the ‘Moment’ on Path’s website. This means you’re not really updating your Facebook as normal – for example, your friends won’t be tagged and notified as far as I can tell. Not that I’m aware of any app that can do that, but if Path is to become what I describe here it needs to I would think.
That’s only going to matter to a few though. Path pitches itself as “designed with the people you love, your close friends and family, in mind. Share in a trusted, intimate, environment like the dinner table at home.”
It certainly feels like it too. It’s not the mass broadcast system Twitter and Facebook are. But you can use Path to share to those if you wish, retaining the privacy of your Path network for those closest to you. And I’ll say it again…it looks and works just beautifully.
From the first use of Path I figured I’d be writing a damning review but the more I explored it the more I realised that all I was going to end up doing was singing its praises. I think I have. More than perhaps I should. So I’ll leave it there.
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