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Path launched in 2010 as a single-app combo of Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, with a focus on exclusivity. It limited you to 50 friends, the thought being that Path would prioritize the relationships that actually matter, and not just spotlight every kid you ever sat at a lunch table with in elementary school. Recently, Path increased that maximum to 150 friends along with a bevy of improvements, but even that still-limited tally doesn't explain why my Path friends list is so slim. The problem with Path is hardly anybody is using it.
That's a little surprising, as Path is less cluttered and easier to navigate than Facebook. Creating posts is incredibly simple: click on an icon at the bottom of your screen and six buttons fan out in a quarter-circle. From here you can write whatever's on your mind, take and upload photos, pop up a location tag, and share what songs you've recently listened to (along with links to buy them). These all appear on a single screen along with your friends' updates.
All the information you and your pals share pops up in one long, single scroll. Like Facebook, that could mean having to sort through multiple inane posts of sheer unrelenting vanity to find anything of substance about a friend or family member. That probably won't happen, though, because it's tough to find enough pals on the service to make regular use essential for most.
It's tough to be an off-brand social network. Apps like Path are only as useful as the size of their user base, and Path has roughly 799 million less users than Facebook. I fraternize within various social circles, all of which are heavy with tech-savvy Internet addicts, and yet I struggled to find many people I knew using Path.
The bottom line. This Path is best walked with friends, but it can be a quiet journey. It might be too fundamentally similar to Facebook to steal away users en masse, though it can syndicate its posts out to other networks; but Path's more elegant interface makes Facebook's web-based approach feel old.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Clean, simple layout that handily tops Facebook for aesthetics. Easy to post a photo or message.
Small user base at present. Folks deeply entrenched in other social networks might not bother switching (as seems to be the case thus far).