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Why Path is about to explode as Facebook takes a hit

As kids bounce from social network to social network, a new pattern is emerging and the Path app will be the new beneficiary of these young crowds, but will it last?

Path App

Path App

Path – three year old app getting hot

Path was launched in 2010 as a simple and private way to share life with close friends and family only, going back to the origins of why so many people loved social networking prior to it becoming mainstream – it used to feel like a small town with your closest friends, new or old. Path is an iPhone and Android app that, as demonstrated below, documents your lifestream.

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Facebook lost users to Instagram

We opined that Instagram would become the teens’ next Facebook, and we were right – kids flocked to the photo sharing app for two reasons. First, their parents and aunt and paw paw weren’t there yet, and second, scrolling through photos appeals to the shortened attention span more than scrolling through text updates (a la Facebook), and users can take in much more information at a dramatically more rapid pace.

Teens aren’t leaving Instagram, they’re still there, but guess who has showed up there, too? Mom. Dad. Grammy. Uncle Frank. Everyone. Every time kids fall in love with a social network, the adults eventually figure it out, and the party’s over. Not that kids were doing anything wrong, but it turns from their private bedroom with a bunch of friends hanging out to a family barbeque – they have to watch their language and pull their pants up.

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But here’s the genius – Facebook acquired Instagram, so even if users stopped using one service in lieu of another, they were covered and could still make big bucks advertising to them.

Here’s where Path comes in

Path is a lifecasting tool that mimics what teens were doing on Facebook before their entire family showed up to spy on them – they were sharing status updates about everything they were doing in life (“just woke up, super tired,” “Katie just slapped Tina in the DRHS parking lot,” “so high right now, I can hear colors,” “gotta sleep, test tomorrow and I didn’t study,” etc.).

As teens tire of hanging out at the family barbeque that is now Facebook, they’re looking for an alternative, and while they’re not leaving Instagram based on family showing up, they are moving to Path, despite Path not being anywhere near new or shiny.

Why Facebook may take a permanent hit

You see, Facebook has now captured all generations up to the point of kids in high school and below, and those kids are looking for alternatives that allow them to be themselves as they would in their bedroom with a bunch of friends over for the afternoon. Facebook is morphing and becoming something else based not only on user culture, but on their features, and it’s a gorgeous site with an endless number of users, but kids are looking for an oasis.

As kids seek parent-free zones, and as parents continue to flock to whatever network their kids are on, the continual shift from one network to another will continue, which also creates a new problem – an entire generation of people completely fine with immediately abandoning a social network or tool for another, which will be another challenge for the future. For those that haven’t picked up on the irony – Facebook launched as a network exclusively for college kids only.

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Will Path be the permanent destination for kids? Maybe, but maybe not. It seems that the first social network that is for minors only that allows kids to be grandfathered in and take the social network with them (sign up while in high school, keep your account forever, but mom/dad can’t ever sign up) will be the true winner for this generation that simply wants their independence.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. sheeshoo

    May 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I think this is a very interesting and it will be one to watch. As the mother of a teen, I know that there is another driver for where teens spend their time on social networks, and it’s a technology driver. I’ll give you an example – my son said that for a while they were actually using google plus at school because the school had blocked sites like Facebook and Twitter, but they couldn’t block google. When they were using wifi instead of their mobile networks – this mattered.

    Otherwise, what I know they actually use a lot for self-expression and community connection right now is tumblr. The demographic numbers there right now lean far into the younger crowd.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      You are absolutely right. Tumblr is huge, and Instagram remains super popular, and it’s interesting that they *were* using FB for lifecasting, and in order to preserve their natural behavior, they just pack their bags and leave when it gets too adult-y.

      I love your observation about G+, that is truly fascinating that they’re limited at times, and SO resourceful. You’re right – that will play a substantial role in the long term success of each network. Google has the advantage – good point!

  2. Troy Herman

    May 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    One of the best lines of the article: ” …they have to watch their language and pull their pants up.” HA! Thanks @twitter-12423822:disqus .. for the laugh, smile, and info.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      HA! Thanks for noticing that line, @facebook-1158574418:disqus !

  3. Parker Ragain

    May 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    FB has many privacy problems. Family, employers, the gov, are all looking at FB and I don’t like it. Plus, FB is the worst designed website I have ever seen. It is complex when it doesn’t need to be. The first rule of web design (according to Parker) is don’t over design.

    Great article Lani, don’t ever stop!

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Parker, you’re right, but don’t you think the privacy issues are simply par for the course? If Path were the size of Facebook and Facebook was the tiny app, the tables would likely be turned when it comes to privacy, no?

      The jury is out on Facebook’s design, and some say it’s getting better, but you’re right – mobile has made us all expect minimalism. For God’s sake, a toddler knows what a hamburger (three dots on upper part of an app) is and that they have to click it to make an app do stuff.

      (Also, thank you for the compliments!)

  4. Tinu

    May 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Path got buggy on my iPad for a while, used to check it every day. One of the things I loved about it was that it was a core network away from Facebook. There are very close friends and family I will never connect to on Path, because I really only want to see mostly happy moments of life.

    One network that doesn’t get much press tat I think teens will grow on is GroupMe. I love how I can talk to just my three core groups of friend, or use it as ack channel during an event. And now with the gallery history of images, it’s like a little way back machine. Great for conversation in the moment, not as great for us older folk who want to save certain things indefinitely.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Interesting thoughts on GroupMe – our teen is also using a group texting app (although she had never heard of GroupMe, it did the same thing). All of these things point to the assertion that kids want to be kids and adults want to be adults.

      But, I wonder how the current generation of kids will behave in the future now that these are all ingrained? How will social networks survive in a world where an entire generation gets bored in five minutes and turns the channel? Thoughts?

      • Tinu

        May 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

        I’m hoping it’s cyclical, that they’ll get to the point where enough is too much like the 80s did with big hair. lol

  5. AmyVernon

    May 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    “this generation that simply wants their independence” = every generation. 🙂

    It’s interesting, but Path has had some MAJOR glitches with privacy and spamming its users contact books lately and has no real path (pardon the pun) to monetization. There’s only so long they can keep doing what they’re doing without turning their customers/users into a commodity. Stickers ain’t gonna cut it.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Amy, you are so right that it hurts. On all counts. 🙂

  6. Liz Scherer

    May 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I loved Path when it first launched – loved the intimacy and the ability to interact with a select few people. I am not sure that I believe that teens will be turning there, however. The interface can be wonky and it doesn’t have the instantaneousness found on, say, Twitter. I think MessageMe is the ‘it’ place for that generation – its instant, you can add photos and doodles and it’s easy.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      MessageMe and SnapChat are huge, you’re totally right! The instant gratification is huge – Path is big right now, I believe, because it mimics what kids *were* doing on FB before Mom got there – honest lifecasting. “I just woke up.” “Here’s a pic of me eating/smoking/pranking/whatev,” and “I went to bed.” All inane to adults, but completely relevant to the kid who has their 10 friends they connect with on Path.

      I’m not convinced that the long term player has emerged yet, what do you think? I’m also not convinced that Facebook couldn’t make some simple adjustments and get the kids back in a snap.

      • Liz Scherer

        May 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        I definitely don’t think that the long term play has emerged and it will be interesting to see what it is. But remember – kids have short attention spans – so perhaps it will be more than one thing.

        • Lani Rosales

          May 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm

          Exactly! I think that’s why Instagram is still a hit, yet they’re searching for what allows them their independence. But now I wonder what will happen when THEY have kids. lol

  7. agbenn

    May 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm is about as accurate as al gore

    • agbenn

      May 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      and I mean that on all counts, compete is a joke and they’re aware and refuse to fix it

      • JoeLoomer

        May 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

        I trust you’d know Benn, also explains why I can’t get a site I own that’s indexed over 18,000 times to even appear on compete. Any other sites you know of that are a) similar; or b) more accurate?

        Navy Chief, Navy Pride

        • agbenn

          May 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

          unless you’re feeding them your data, they’ll punish you – I will say that alexa on some occasions can show the right ups and downs on the right days, but as for count, it has no idea what it’s talking about unless you feed it your data (ie. your traffic) so it can in turn sell your statistics out the backdoor.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Additionally, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, for anyone who doesn’t know, Compete doesn’t take into account mobile visits. Even if it was accurate for web visits (which it’s not), it still misses the majority of Path users.

  8. SaintsMeachum

    June 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

    So Path is just a glorified Group Text Message or Facebook Group

  9. SaintsMeachum

    June 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

    If Path’s catch to get people to come over is that “it’s what people were doing before parents joined Facebook” then idk if that works. I’m a college kid and before my parents got Facebook and whatever, Myspace was the thing. But the big thing is that the reason we posted so much non-sense or “bad stuff” like smoking or drinking was because we were younger. We didn’t know any better. I mean I guess this would work for the younger generations like from middle school to early high school, but I’d assume they’re already posting bad things as it is right now cause they don’t know any better.

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