Imbalances
Massive-Scale Online Collaboration

Intimate Networks

Path
Since its redesign, Path has gotten a lot of attention. Many would say that having created a ground-breaking piece of mobile UX this is deserved. I've had Path on my phone for a good while but not really used it. The redesign has tempted me back to play around with it, but it's not yet something I open up regularly, partly because I'm not sure what place it has in amongst all the stuff I use on a daily basis. That may change, but for now that's how it is.

One of the interesting things about it though, is that it was designed from the outset to be an intimate network. When it began, the number of people you could friend on it was capped at 50. They've since relaxed that limit to 150. But they're still clear about where that reasoning comes from:

"We are inspired by Professor Robin Dunbar from Oxford University, whose research delves deeply into the number of trusted relationships humans can maintain throughout life. We tend to have 5 best friends, 15 good friends, 50 close friends and family, and 150 total friends. At Path, we're building tools for you to share with the people who matter most in your life."

Whilst Facebook, they say, is primarily about sharing with all of your friends and acquaintances and Twitter is primarily about public sharing, Path is about creating "a safe, intimate, judgment-free space". 

Much was made of this when it launched but if I'm honest, I didn't really get it. Since then though, I've been enjoying the relative intimacy of Instagram and Google+. That's not to say that more connections and more 'noisy' networks like Twitter are inherently a bad thing (although I do have my reservations about so-called frictionless sharing on Facebook), but perhaps it does suggest that there is definitely a need for places to go where there is more signal and a little less noise. Path may not be it (I'm still not using it after all) but the functionality on the big unrestricted networks isn't perfect either so who knows, maybe it will turn out that it is.

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