With today’s news that my sentimental favourite social-check-in-come-travel-companion application, Gowalla has been acquired by Facebook, it seems like there’s no better time than the present to take a quick look at the worthy replacement app that all the UI team were going goo-gaa over in the office this week – “Path”.
After all, only moments after Path released its beautifully revamped “v2.0″ app into the marketplace on both iOS and Android, respected tech blog “The Next Web” was already touting the improved application as “…the Facebook app that Facebook should have made.”
So what makes Path such a sexy and fun experience for the everyday user? The simple answer to that, as cliched as it sounds, is that it’s the “little things”.
Hopefully you’ll get a bit of an idea of what I’m talking about in the few screens and features I’ll take you through below, but minute, yet noticeable details like the clock icon timeline scrollbar, the paralex scrolling user cover photos and the arc of sharing options that pop out from the prominently displayed share “plus” icon, all combine to provide users with an intelligent, fun and easy-to-use way of sharing details of their daily happenings with friends.
Sure, the user-base at this stage is, like all other relatively new players going up against the likes of Facebook etc, kind of pathetic, but it may only take a few influential users to get the ball rolling within their social online circles to get the buzz and momentum going for Path.
Getting started: Signing up
Signing up for a Path account is an interesting process in that it flips the traditional process by asking for you to select your profile and cover photos first before any kind of email/password combination and demographic info. This way, users get a sweet mini-preview of the beautiful design style that awaits them on the other side of the registration process.
Providing a few more required (and optional) details, you’re transferred to your brand new home stream already featuring the imagery you selected upon signing up. The best way to fill up your rather sparse timeline? Find some friends to add!
A pretty straight forward process this one.
There’s the usual option of connecting with your Facebook account and finding fellow Path users that way, then there’s the simple option of running through your own personal address book, matching up listed email addresses with registered Path users.
Using either method, or both, should hopefully connect you to at least one or two friends you can start interacting with.
If not, there’s always the option of sending out pre-formatted invitations to your nearest and dearest via a few clicks and access to your phone’s address book. Selecting the phone number or email address of your invitee determines if they will receive their message by SMS or email. Simple.
Creating a “moment”
Gowalla referred to a user’s status update that included text, location data and images as a “story”. For Path users, your updates containing combinations of images, text, tagging of other Path users, location check-ins and even music sharing are referred to as “moments”.
To start composing a “moment” simply click on the red “+” icon at the bottom left of the screen on your home stream and select a media type to submit. From there it’s just a matter of following the prompts to complete and submit your “moment”. Some of the cool things to look out for are:
- A number of image filters are available for when taking pictures with the camera. Unlike Instagram where the filters are applied post-shot, however, the filters in Path are shown in real-time as you actually take the shot. Pretty cool.
- If you wish to let everyone know about a cool song you are actually listening to as you create a moment, Path will find out what song is playing and automatically suggest that song as the one to publish. No searching required.
- You can even, if you’re so inclined, let people know you’ve called it a night by clicking on the moon icon and selecting “Go to sleep”. When you wake again in the morning, hit the wake button and Path will greet you with a weather and temperature update in your timeline. Kind of gimmicky, but cool at the same time.
Commenting and liking
Like any decent social application, you have the opportunity to add comments, likes and in a quirky new move “emotions” to your friends’ posts. That’s right, leave a comment, a heart (like) or a smile to posts that appear on your home stream.
To add comments and likes, look for the grey smilie face at the top right of each post. Just so you know, too, the little number next to the smilie is the total number of people who have viewed that “moment”. A neat little running viewing stat!
Posting to your other networks
The obvious question some of your friends may ask you as you attempt to enlist them to your newfound love of Path, is – “why join if it means I have to post updates to yet another network??” The answer to this one is, you don’t have to!
By connecting your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare accounts to your Path profile, you can easily and automatically post your “moments” to any or all of these accounts each time you post something to Path.
In a clever, similar fashion to the popular photo sharing site Instagram, each time you post new content, an individual, specific webpage is created for that post so that your friends from other networks can click through to view your individual, shared Path content without requiring an account. The stylish “moment” pages look something like this:
As I sit here typing this, my mate Adam just posted a sweet time lapse video he shot using his phone and posted to his Path profile as well as Facebook and Twitter. Check it out here.
Other streams to keep your eyes on
Your home stream isn’t the only place in Path that you can keep an eye on what’s going on. Access your settings menu by either swiping your home stream screen to the right, or by clicking on the 3-bar icon at the top left of screen. From this menu you can access a number of other options:
- Home – The main Path stream you’ll keep your eye on for 90% of the time and a timeline of your friends’ moments.
- Path – Think of this as your profile and a running timeline of your moments.
- Activity – A running list of what activity has been going on surrounding posts by you and your friends. You can even find out WHEN your friends have visited your path from here.
- Settings – Change your personal details, profile and cover photos, and set your notification settings.
- Sign Out – If you must, you must.
How’s all that sound?
While hopefully I’ve given you enough of a taster above to get you hooked, nothing beats giving it a go for yourself. It may sound like I’m really “pumping the tyres” of this wee app, but honestly, I’ve given a bunch of these types of things a go over the past couple of years, and this is the most fun I’ve had with one of them combined with a truly beautiful and well thought out user interface.
To get your hands on Path now, visit http://www.path.com.