Path is heading in a new direction. It’s the same direction as many other social networking companies: Multiple apps, with one of them dedicated to mobile messaging.
Path is a well-funded and much-hyped startup that has spent the last few years building a private mobile social networking app that today has just four million daily active users, with pockets of them in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and the Middle East. Its take on messaging in its new Path Talk app is to change what would normally be an entry on a social newsfeed — so-and-so is in a certain location, so-and-so is listening to a particular song, even so-and-so has low phone battery — and publish it like an instant messenger status. The point is, when you go to message someone, you have a better idea of what the person is doing.
Or, as Path CEO Dave Morin described it, “We want to make the conversations much more human and put them in much more context.” Because that context is pretty intense, he said, any and every status or message is deleted off Path’s servers and users’ apps 24 hours after it appears.
Path also bought a startup called TalkTo, which helps people text message stores and restaurants. So if you want to make a reservation or check if something is in stock, instead of calling and waiting on hold, you send a message through TalkTo and the company either forwards it on or makes the call on your behalf, and texts you back. That functionality will be added into Path Talk in the next couple months.
The TalkTo team of seven, which had raised $3 million, is joining Path. The regular Path app is staying mostly the same, sans messaging.
What’s next for Path, Morin said, is “many apps in the hopper.” He described the trend Path is on, along with companies like Facebook and Foursquare that are splitting up apps, as “a shift from Swiss Army knives to more specialized knives.” While each app may serve a different purpose, the “identity, authentication, and premium service cuts across them all,” Morin said.
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