Path vs. Facebook - social network websites
Everyone has their Path in life, where you are going where you came from... That is the idea behind the little application that came out a few years ago but has not gotten any attention in the shadow of facebook and other such social networking sites. A few weeks ago I discovered this app and thought it looked interesting so I downloaded it and over the last few weeks have been taking it for a test run.
The first thing that caught my eye when I saw this application in the Google Play store was the screen shots. The design is like taking Facebook timeline and going back to basics. Not clutter, no noise, just the stuff that you want to see. To the right is a screenshot of what the "timeline" looks like. At the top is the cover photo of your choice and profile picture. The content of the timeline is both you and your friends. Unlike facebook which chooses for you what is going to be displayed on the timeline, Path takes everything that your friends are doing and puts them all in chronological order for easy viewing.
This app is incredibly user friendly. While facebook is set on using words for all their buttons, Path utilizes the fact that it is a smartphone application and only uses words where they are necessary. On the bottom left of the screen is a red button with a plus sign in it. When the button is tapped a simple menu appears over the screen that you are looking at. But instead of being a drop-down menu of pop-up, the menu is a fan of little circles and you choose what it is that you would like to add to the timeline. Say I want to tell everyone what I'm listening too. I just tap the music note and type in the song, then path will find the song and allow my friends to listen to it too, or even purchase it in iTunes. What if I just want to update my status, then you hit the chat bubble and start typing. It is just simple, we don't need words to know what a button does. With such small screens space is limited and keeping it free is very important.
I can understand if you don't want to drop your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare whatever for a new app that you don't know will be around tomorrow, or next year. But Path doesn't require you to lose your other social networks, in fact they make it easy to share what you are doing with all your other services. When you update anything on Path this is the screen that comes up. At the bottom are five buttons, starting from left to right are:
lock: this is private and you don't want to share this with anyone.
Facebook: what you are posting will be pushed to facebook and set as your status.
Twitter: Path will turn the post into a tweet for you.
Tumblr: the post like facebook will be pushed to your tumblr account.
Foursqaure: if you add a place on the map foursquare will check you in at this location.
At the top we can see that the user added an image with a caption, under this she tagged Grandma, and added the place where they made the cookies and she wants this to be set as a Twitter tweet. Everything that you need in one easy screen.
like every social networking site out there there are concerns about privacy. But from the get-go Path does not share any of your information with anyone on the web, with out your permission. One feature that I personally really liked but after reading many reviews about this app most people are not very pleased with is the friend limit. Path set the friend limit at 150, moving from facebook down to a limited number of friend turns off most users, but if you sit down and think about how many of your 200+ facebook friends you actually care what they are up to I'm sure you will come up with a number close to 150. This is because psychologists have observed that human like primates are not able to relate to more than 150 people at a time.
This app has been called overly stalkerish. since you are able to update every thing that is going on in your life, share photos, what you are up to, and it links to your phones GPS so it updates when you leave your neighborhood could be seen as overly stalkerish. An other strange feature I've seen is that the app sends me an update when someone views my profile, which I find a little strange.
Finally I got into a discussion with another Path tester a few weeks ago on Usabilityhell.com. His biggest problem with the application is that there is no website. When you go to Path.com you are prompted to download the application, now he saw this as a downfall for the application. I see it as a very good move for the company. There is so much that people do everyday from their smartphones, or tablets that websites could one day not be as necessary as this are today. For example when I go out of town for a few days at a time I no longer take my laptop with me. I take my phone and iPad and I have everything that I need. useabilityhell claims that if I'm sitting in front of the computer why would I pick up my phone to update path, but I think that Path is for the active person, when you are out doing things and want to up date your friends and family about what you are up to then you don't need a website. All you need is a phone application.
While I do think that Path has a chance at being a very good social network they still have a few kinks that need to be updated. I don't think that they will be the one to bring down the monster that is Facebook, that is not my purpose for this hub. I just feel that there are some really great alternatives out there for facebook, and they could learn from some of these other apps. I will continue to use Path and keep you updated if they have any breakthroughs.