Path is a lovely little app that is used by pretty much nobody I know. And the thing about it is that you find you don’t want to accept friend requests from people you don’t know well. (Yes, I slept like the fucking dead that night.)
It’s somewhere between a personal journal / lifestream and semi-ambient awareness for good friends. There is something about it – the fact that when you wake up and tap it the thing tells your friends you’re awake, maybe? – that makes it feel far more intimate than Facebook or Twitter. I see photos here that don’t appear on Instagram or other services. I see locational notes that certainly don’t show up anywhere else. And I only have eleven friends on the service, and at least three of them seemed to stop using it the day after they installed it.
I’m pretty sure the intimacy is what doomed it, once the early adopters moved on.
The suggested friends list is, in fact, all tech-circle early-adopter types. Hell, as you can probably tell, I uninstalled it for a few months myself. I put it back on because I wanted to try and make it work properly, to get a sense of what it really is. And what it is, in fact, is a very cleverly designed lifestreaming application sitting inside a walled garden that sits inside a walled city. It quite marvellously creates the air of quiet, dignified privacy, as well as the suggestion of the sort of privileged friendship that makes you comfortable with the reportage of your sleep and wake times.
Which is perhaps an odd thing to centre a thought on, save that I follow a couple of hundred people on Twitter and very few of them open their day’s Twitter use with “awake!” It’s probably actually only me, after being awake for an hour or so, who posts “good morning, [insert insult here],” and that’s only to fuck with people here in Britain who’ve been up for hours at that point. Kind of makes me wonder what Twitter would look like if people did use it as a log of the day. Actually, no, it doesn’t, because I immediately think of that literary agent in NYC who was recently physically assaulted by a disgruntled writer who had tracked and trailed her in realtime by her Twitter and Foursquare use.
This is the niche Path was developed to fill: realtime lifestreaming for your trusted personal friends. I don’t know that, in 2012, the majority of people are actually ready to hear that about a social service. 21 and under, maybe. Possibly even 50+. Perhaps you run something similar as a Circle on G+. It seems to me that Path, an intelligently gentle app for an always-on and always-fast internet, may prove to have the niche that no-one really wanted to set up a table in. Shame.