A path you'd love to walk on

Jul 08, 2012, 11:48 IST | Nimish Dubey

At a time when most social networks, be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, encourage you to accumulate as many friends and followers as possible, Path restricts you to those who really matter. We take a closer look at this network for the few

They say every rose has its thorn. And in the case of social networks, these come in the form of way too many followers and friends. Yes, the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and (now) Google Plus are a great way to keep in touch with your friends and meet new people, but more often than not, there comes a stage when you find yourself swamped with information about the lives of people you do not really know too well (especially if you are the type that says “yes” to every friend request you get). And the losers in this case quite often are your closest friends — the ones who really matter — whose messages get lost in the midst of all this “noise.”

You could fix matters by spending hours unfriending people to clean up your social networks, causing offence and giving explanations, or by simply moving to a social network that is designed with the quality rather than quantity of your followers/friends in mind. And one of the best of these is Path.

Only for phones, only for friends
Launched in late 2010, Path has been making waves of late, thanks to a host of updates and added functionalities that have made it the social network of choice for those who want less crowded lives online. Get an account by downloading the free Path app onto your Android or iOS device and registering for a free account. A quick note — unlike other social networks, Path does not let you share your information and details on a website. You can access it only on your smartphone and tablet. Some might find this irritating, we actually thought it made the network more personal and not something one left running in the background on a desktop (a la Facebook and Co). This also means you get the same version of the social network on all devices, unlike Facebook and Google Plus, which change depending on the device and app you access them from.

The landing screen of Path is far cleaner than you would find on most social networks and totally devoid of advertisements. You can see the activities of your friends — posts written, pictures shared, details of the songs they are listening to and the places they are at, and so on. Very Facebook and Google Plus, you would think. There is a grain of truth in that, but there is a huge difference — in Path, you cannot have more than 150 friends. This ensures that you restrict the network to those who really matter and don’t get pally with every Tom, Dick and Harry who pops up seeking online fraternity.

Neat and elegant
What’s more, Path is no mere Facebook clone. The interface is elegant — you have a “+” on the left corner of the app which gives you the option to make posts of your own by showing a neat arc of icons. Even here there are some neat touches — you can add filters to your images, get song recommendations when you decide to share what you are listening to, simply state that you are with a person (no words needed), or even indicate that you have gone to sleep or are awake! While commenting on a post, you can not only express yourself in terms of words, but choose between four smileys and a Valentine-like icon — so much handier than ‘like,’ we think.

Speaking of posts, try to discard one without completing it and the app will ask you if you want to do so, adding “if you go back you will lose your thought,” if you are on Android. Neat. As you scroll through the posts made by your friends, you will notice the hands of a clock in the top-right corner of the app whirring away — nope, it is not a clock gone crazy, but just a way of showing the time when each post was made. And in case you really miss your other social networks, you can share your posts on Path on Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare too.

Secure with friends
We have been using Path for a few weeks, and are delighted. It works smoothly (not one crash) and supports push notifications so you can find out when a new entry/post has been made. Thanks to the limited number of people one can befriend, the information is almost always relevant and sensible. And the fact that it is accessible only on our handsets made us somehow feel closer to our network and more secure — no chance of leaving your computer with your Facebook account open to be gawked at and misused.

It’s compact, fast, elegant and very personal. Path is everything Facebook should have been. No, we are not giving up our Facebook or Google Plus accounts, but we are spending far more time, far more meaningfully on Path. On Facebook, we are with our friends, followers and acquaintances. On Path, we are only with our friends. There is a difference.

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