With Friend Limits Loosened, Path Appears to Reverse its Declines

The mobile photo-sharing space is finally starting to look a tad less lopsided.

Up until the last two weeks, Instagram appeared to hold a tenfold lead over rivals Picplz and Path — at least according to Facebook monthly active users that we track on AppData.** Public numbers that each of the startups have released also seem to hint at their relative sizes: Instagram says it sees 300,000 photo uploads a day, while Path said last week that it has had 2 million moments shared over 1 1/2 months.

However, in the last four days, Path reversed its declines after turning on e-mail as a viral channel while Picplz has made gains as well.

Name MAU
1. Instagram 325,082
2. PicPlz 112,905
3. Hipstamatic Connect for iPhone 59,931
4. DailyBooth 44,748
5. Path 24,823

Path: Critics were quick to write off former Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin and Dustin Mierau’s visually arresting iPhone app when it launched in November because it limited friend lists to 50. It was a well-intentioned attempt at preserving the sense of intimacy that other social apps lose as they grow. However, it artificially raised user acquisition costs and Path’s MAU steadily declined to less than 20,000.

However, when it announced a $8.65 million round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures last week, Path loosened up. It started allowing users to add more than 50 friends through e-mail. Today, if a user has friends who aren’t on Path, they can send their personal moments, photos or videos to their friends’ inboxes.

Those changes, plus other features such as commenting, emoticons and video have helped the app reverse its declines. It’s almost back to where it was three weeks ago. Perhaps Path is beginning to find its way.

Instagram: The clear front-runner in the space continues to post steady growth and said today that it has close to 2 million registered users. According to AppData, it is seeing about 325,082 Facebook monthly actives and 39,529 DAU.

On top of that, the company just announced an API and beta program that would let developers build applications with Instagram photos. That comes just a week after the company also announced a $7 million round of funding with Benchmark Capital and angels.

Picplz: This app is also starting to show some growth as well, pulling up to about 112,905 monthly active Facebook users and just over 60,000 DAU. The company also launched an API today, giving developers to ability to create slideshows or embeddable widgets and pull photo feeds. It also supports filters, so third-party apps can apply them to user photos too.

**Note: While Facebook monthly actives underestimate total usage because many users do not log-in through Connect, it can serve as a proxy for relative size and trajectory.