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App ambition: Fun media-sharing for small social circles, planet-wide

Path, the mixed-media app for more intimate phone-based social networking, really illustrates how very borderless but cultural social media is. Growing by about 1 million users a month and now one of the Top 20 apps for Android phones, according to the Wall Street Journal, this app that limits your social network to 150 friends started growing fast in Asia first, its CEO David Morin told the Journal: “Japan, Korea, China, even Indonesia.” That was the first couple of years, Morin said. Now on its version 3, with the addition of messaging and stickers, Path seems to be taking off in the US, starting with our Spanish speakers. It got its start in this hemisphere in Venezuela, “where Path added around 500,000 users in a weekend, and then spread up through Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean,” especially the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Path says it’s aimed at making the sharing of media – text, tunes, photos, stickers, videos – less public and therefore lighter, more meaningful (because among a tight group of family and friends). Morin told the Journal that, when he left Facebook, he saw that as an untapped opportunity in socializing on the mobile platform. He said Path allows people to “goof around” more with media. “You have a lot of fun with your friends,” he told the Journal. “We wanted to make messaging really fun.” That sounds a little like the sense of emotional safety that teens feel they have with perishable photo-sharing (see this) – a relief from all the self-presentation of “traditional,” it’s-there-forever social media on the Web. Maybe Path falls somewhere in the middle between Snapchat and Facebook. That it’s growing fast in many languages and cultures suggests two things: that spare and focused means versatile (and universally appealing) and that there is indeed a niche for more private, mobile social media-sharing LITE.

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