Farewell Path: How it stopped being cool in comparison with Instagram’s strangers’ validation

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Path is closing down, in large because nobody wants to interact “with only people you care about” anymore

I must admit it, I listened to that indie band nobody knew so I could post it on Path as “is listening to” and let my circle knew that my taste was cool. Path was once special because it was built on a basis of curated circle, consisted of those people you truly care about, 50 people limit in the beginning following the research of Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar who said that 50 is roughly the outer boundary of our personal networks.

One may argue that Path started off with a promising premise: a personal network, an antidote to the overrated social network back then in 2010. After all, its founder, Dave Morin, was a former Facebook employee that was looking for something unique to offer that would set the tone for the way people interact online.

I found a blog post from November 2010 showcasing the official blog statement of from Path, branding itself as “a place that you will always feel comfortable being yourself and sharing the story of your life with your closest friends and family via the photos you take every day with your mobile device”. Sounds familiar?

I think so, too.

In 2011, just a year after Path was launched, people were made aware with the Generation Z’s social media app Snapchat, allowing picture and video sharing only in a limited amount of time, which planted the notion of “see now or never” and managed to get the users constantly on the app so they don’t get the so-called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

In 2012, Instagram was officially acquired by Facebook, making it a super picture-sharing, social network app.

It felt like Instagram was becoming more and more accommodating with features and options we didn’t know we need.

Bear with me, as this is important for the impending doom that struck the social media.

In 2016, Instagram took a jab at Snapchat by introducing Instagram Stories. Tired of being rejected by Evan Spiegel’s Snapchat, Zuckerberg took it upon himself to recreate the exact same “film it while it’s happening” feature.

The survival secret

In making sure that it stays ahead, Instagram then “innovated” some more, adding interactive filters, the one thing that makes people stick around for Snapchat. It made people think: why should I use two apps with the exact same fun (and then more, when Instagram decided to include an Ask Me Anything, poll, and gif feature)?

In the process, not only Snapchat got hurt, but Path also gradually lost its charm.

Path emerged with the branding of sharing pictures into your beautifully designed personal space, only let those who matter knew. Technically, this could work, but not for a long time because that’s about it.

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In Path’s case, there’s no more room for growth. In Path’s case, even the simplest feature being “adopted” by Facebook, the very thing that inspired Path’s creation, could and did cause it to go down the hill ever since.

“It gets boring and nobody else was on it anymore. Instagram is enough,” said around 15 people that I summoned using the customized Ask Me Anything (AMA) feature -ironically- on Instagram, about why they left Path. One person even got hilariously specific: “Every time I opened it all I see was this one just wakes up, this one goes to sleep. I don’t need to know that.”

The lesson is that sustainability, not branding and seamless design will carry you on.

Somehow Path lost it

“Path is like the only place I can be open and honest without the fear of being judged because those circle of friends got my back,” said one of the only two people who voted YES on still using Path until the day it closed down. “The day it closed was the day I lost my only social media for oversharing myself and my mind.”

For him, the minority, Path was still worth eating up the phone memory space. For me, my only reason to leave was I had to install a new app for work and the only app I didn’t feel any attachment to was Path.

So much that I didn’t bother with whether or not I lost important updates about my circle there, simply because my circle also updates on Instagram. Heck, Instagram almost even wiped out Facebook if only I don’t use Messenger constantly.

“I was liking it so much until it lifted the 50-friend-only policy and when it opened for ad spamming. I just think it has lost its exclusivity,” said one particularly eager commenter I got on Instagram AMA. But for me, he spoke the truth.

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The moment Path stopped being exclusive, that’s when it has lost it. Exclusivity was the reason that made everyone was on it at one point because it’s nice to be included in each others’ exclusive circle.

People crave attention

It’s the law. People crave attention.

Path limited it only to people you have known. Instagram opens it wide for whoever shares your interest, is willing to believe in your aesthetic, makes you a celebrity just with a constant posting and a filtered look.

We don’t want just close friend knowing how awesome-looking it is the food we order, or that we’re on a vacation to Bali.

We want everybody to see it, the more the merrier. The stranger, the better.

Something crossed my mind once, on the day Instagram launched the AMA feature which felt like forever ago but actually just this year. I was convinced Instagram is in conspiracy to make us stay longer and never go out of it, it’s like Alice in Wonderland kind of voodoo.

But it’s for another op-ed.

So long Path

Will we ever look back one day, and say, “Path shouldn’t close down, we should’ve kept using it”? Will its majority users in Indonesia miss it?

With one innovative social network pops out at the speed of light in this current tech frenzy, Path has been taken to its final rest. Rest in Peace photo-sharing exclusivity.

Path was never a photo-gallery, never a check-in and location sharing app, never a “what’s on your mind” shoutout bubble, never a music app, never scalable enough to do business, never fully focused on one thing,

With the blur of its identity as a social network, Path has become replaceable and irrelevant. What’s the one thing that Path can do that other thriving social networks can’t?

I am confident that Path won’t be missed. But I will remember Path fondly still, as will many other because we were once wanted in someone’s exclusive circle. Oh, what a nice feeling.

Image Credit: Path

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