It’s been called the “anti-Twitter“, and it’s making quite a stir in social media circles. Path‘s premise is that we all need a smaller, more exclusive social network made up of those closest to us to get the most out of the social experience. With a friend cap set to only 50 connections, this network flies in the face of Twitter, which allows for millions of followers and friends. However, since the two networks rely on such different logics of connection, there’s very little chance that Twitter users will migrate over to Path, even to get away from the noise or complexity of Twitter.
David and Goliath, Getting Along
Rather than posing a threat to Twitter, I think Path is somewhat complimentary. It is a small social network – called a “personal network” by the Path team – that encourages close connection. Compare that to Twitter, which brings together thousands of people who can participate in the same discussion using hashtags or trending topics.
The small, 50-person maximum, network on Path is supposed to encourage people to be themselves and trust their connections. Twitter, on the other hand, encourages large networks of followers to discuss news, events, and ideas across the world.
If you’re looking for a way to find out what your good friends are up to, Path might just be the network for you. But if you want to participate in a worldwide conversation, get breaking news, and be part of the voice of the many, Twitter is your network.
The Medium is the Message
Path is only available on the iPhone currently, with plans to roll out on Blackberry and Android in the future. However, this still limits its potential ubiquity in that it cuts out PC and laptop users from the fun. Twitter is taking a somewhat opposite approach, trying to be available on all devices that could potentially send a Tweet.
Path is, however, designed as a mobile-only network, and the only form of communication it currently allows is through pictures. Users take a picture and share it with their 50 closest connections. This is supposed to allow a minimalist simplicity, while encouraging people to just be themselves – if you send a picture of the gym to your connections, they’ll all be happy for you, knowing that you’re finally getting out there after talking about it for so long.
Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but Twitter’s 140-characters can also pack a punch. Twitter is all about musing in a textually-constrained space, or sending links, video, photos and other multimedia to your followers.
The two networks have such different purposes and use such different mediums to get their message across, that it’s unlikely that Path will ever directly compete with Twitter. Instead, we’ll likely see Path carve out a small market niche of people who are feeling a bit social media overloaded – but I expect that many of those people will eventually miss the bustle, speed, and immediacy of Twitter.