Why Apple Buying Path Could Make Sense

With reports that Apple could be in talks to acquire struggling social network Path, I look at some reasons this might be a good idea.

From its inception, Path was designed to be small, intimate, your closest friends. Initially, you were limited to sharing with only 50 people, forcing descisions on who was actually important in your life. It always felt as if you were sharing on a more personal level, confiding in those you knew and trusted, making it a refreshing change from the ever-present pressure to acquire more followers to amplify your message like Twitter and Facebook.

In addition, Path has always been exquisitively designed, surprising and delighting with interface flourishes and meticulously crafted controls.

However, it is well know that Path hasn't really hit the level it needed to. My own account (which I signed into today for the first time in months) is a wasteland with virtually no activity.

Apple has had a similarly poor track record in social. Ping never took off and there is a general feeling that they just don't “get it”. However, Apple are extremely successful in the field of personal communication, with iMessage sending billions of communications between people since its inception.

With iOS 8, Apple are further boosting Messages with the ability to quickly send voice notes and easier photo sharing.

Now look at the type of interactions Apple is promoting on the Watch. Close, personal, intimate. Apple don't care about the frivilous relationships, they care about the ones you care about.

The ability to send your heartbeat to another person? How many people are you really likely to want to do that with? One? Yet it's an interaction they've seen fit to put into the device as a highly publicised feature. Same with tap. Just a tiny, quiet reminder to tell someone you're thinking about them. Sketch, too, relies on an intimate relationship with the person you're communicating with, an unspoken understanding between the parties to interpret these tiny little drawing and derive meaning from them.

Launching Path this morning, I was struck by the emphasis they placed on the private nature of the app and the importance of real relationships.

So, we have Apple, with little to no track record in social networking outside of one to one communication with Messges, but with a desire to make your personal relationships more delightful and engaging. All with their legendary focus on design. Meanwhile, you have Path, with a beautifully designed product, concentrating on the close, personal relationships you have but with an actually functioning, albeit underused, social network.

Apple buying Path won't save Path (it would probably kill it as a standalone product), but it might give them Apple a team that can really bring their talents to bear on giving iOS and Watch users ever more delightful ways to interact with those they really care about.

I love the idea of a quiet network, outside the intensity of Twitter and the inanity of Facebook, where I can have intimate moments with people I really care about.