Sunday, August 14

Widowers of Path, the social network of the Dumbar Number

In 2011, Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari published the book ‘Sapiens: From Animals to Gods‘, in which he said, among many other things, that a hundred people is the maximum number of people that a human can emotionally manage. A year before, Genbeta published an article talking about Path.

The headline read “Path, the social network for your real friends”. He was right: at a time when Twitter was starting to take off and when Facebook already counted the list of friends of any profile by hundreds, this network had a maximum limit: 50 friends. That was the estimate he made of the maximum number of people who could be minimally close in any person’s life, much less generous than Harari’s.

From there, the level of closeness could only be very low, in his opinion, and if we wanted to add someone else, we had to make room for him by deleting one of those already present. A Solomonic social network that soon after would open the hand, increasing tripling that limit, up to 150 friends, coinciding with the Dumbar number, which suggests that the size of our brain limits our number of close connections.

I was discharged attracted by the captures that I saw on her. If at this time we see applications flourish that promise to revolutionize the way we manage email or the productivity of remote teams, at that time what emerged every week was a new social network. Some more focused on photographs, others on reflections, others on making check-in and others more from specific niches. In that 2010 Instagram was born … but also Path. Dave Morin, its founder, came from Facebook, and his idea with Path, setting a top of friends, was to create a quality network.

Only with those who understand how happy that moment makes us

Path will be an oasis. It was born at a time when interfaces were a bit clunky and even industrial phone designs were too. Path prioritized the visual component above all else and conveyed a warmth of Nordic architecture With which Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, in the end those who took the cat into the water, could not even dream of.

Path Hd 1600

Appreciation of Path’s fantastic design a decade ago. Presentation of its integration with Nike +, with an interface far ahead of its time.

Of course your feed it was chronological, not algorithmic. Algorithmic timelines came, meaningfully, when the number of accounts and pages we followed or friends we had was so high that it became unmanageable. So the networks were incorporating their automatic criteria to decide what content to prioritize to present us. Did a feed algorithmic on a social network with a rather low buddy cap that we would never exceed? Of course not. So it would have been another oasis: that of a chronological, not algorithmic, social network.

Only for true friends and people to trust

Facebook, which was in its best years in terms of relevance and dominance at the time (Twitter replaced it for information addicts and Instagram for civil society in general), focused on photos and statements in text. It then made the leap to videos, but was not proactive about the type of content its users should upload. Years later, Facebook was left as a redoubt for the political tantrum of hanging around the house, the memes that were already outdated and the posters announcing the disappearance.

Path also beat him by a landslide in that sense from minute one: he had various types of check-ins to do. We could indicate that we were reading a specific book, watching a particular series or movie, or sharing a song. Today it may sound like a truism, but the interface was taken care of beyond the visual: it had databases of all that content to directly access information about them.

It also allowed us to have a record of when we went to sleep and when we woke up. Something that today can be seen as an excess, but that at that time was not out of tune at all: on Twitter it was common to see tweets that came from Foursquare indicating where a person was at all times. Even less was it out of tune in a private social network aimed at our close friends, not just anyone.

This architecture was part of an idea that came from the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, awarded for his studies on economics, psychology, human behavior and decision making. Kahneman spoke of the relationship between happiness and memories, something that prompted Morin to create a network focused on giving, not receiving; and oriented to share moments with those people who know how happy they make us, without further pretense. If I post on Twitter my enthusiasm for the new collection of implements coming to the Farming Simulator, 99% of those who read it will be cold. If I did it in Path, only people who know me well would see it, so they would understand my enthusiasm and would be happy for me, even if it was for that daily minutia.

That in any case will never happen, because it’s been three years since Path closed forever, after a long agony living in insignificance and with reprehensible moments along the way, such as when he sent the entire contact list of his users to his servers without asking for permission. Or worse, when he also sent an SMS to all contacts of who registered inviting them to use the application. Paradoxical in a social network destined to be a private and intimate stronghold in our digital life.

No spiritual successor

Path’s crisis began when three key employees left in 2013 and life at the company was never the same again. Nor is it that it had gotten very far in terms of user volume: fifteen million we got to use Path in its prime, a rounding error compared to Facebook and co.

In the last two years we have seen some timid attempt to fill this gap, that of some social network (or some kind of) oriented to small groups, to regain lost privacy. Cocoon mix Instagram and WhatsApp in circles of total trust, Dex it is rather a vitaminized Excel sheet to manage our friendships. There must be everything.

Things have happened along the way. Instagram added their “best friends” circles and their comforting green color to identify us as such. WhatsApp has established itself as the private social network par excellence through the use of groups, that place to share photos and videos (and thoughts, ahem) that we would never want to see in much more populated spaces. It is also true that something that has happened in this time is the rise of TikTok putting millions of people to choreograph and display charisma with global reach.

Nobody has been able to fill that gap completely, although it does not seem that it is a demand of the masses nor does anyone think much about the Dumbar Number. Path’s fifteen million peak is the online equivalent of four cats. The Path widowers, at a time when no one can escape the tentacles of Facebook (scandal after scandal) to have moments of digital closeness with our circle of trust, we will continue to wait for a spiritual successor.