Would you pay for a premium Path service?

Path 2.5.6 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)Path 2.5.6 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

As much as Path was making waves following its November 2010 debut, little did we hear in terms of plans for the future, excluding the privacy fiasco related to uploading users’ contacts without explicit permission.

That’s a shame because I still hang out on Path, if only occasionally. Apart from learning about my friends’ sleeping habits, Path gives me a much more private environment to catch up on what the people in my closest circle have been up to.

Facebook, despite its rich feature set, just doesn’t allow for such a controllable setting. Confirming earlier whispers, Path’s co-founder and CEO has gone on the record to hint that his company isn’t ruling out the possibility of a paid-for premium service. He also talked about the search feature that has resulted in plenty more engagements and more…

Path CEO Dave Morin sat down for a one-on-one with Mike Butcher of TechCrunch to talk business and future plans for the service. The app’s currently available in eighteen languages and will soon roll out to other markets starting with Japan, Indonesia, Korea and China (that’s where the growth is).

Just don’t call Path a social network. Dave prefers the term “personal network” and rightfully, too – Path limits you to your real 150 friends and family.

We fashioned Path as a journal, a path through life. A product like that is about accessing memories. A problem with your iPhone is searching through camera albums – on Path you can search for ‘last year in Japan’ and bam, your content comes up. 

The search features also understands your friends, places, seasons, birthdays, holidays and more. But how exactly does the company plan to make some revenue?

We started out by selling some photo filters but that’s been a small business. Later in the year we’re going be rolling out virtual goods and a premium service in the first half of this year.

You should have known this was in the making, he continues:

We’ve always said we are a premium services focused business. We think of Path as a personal network, in the same way Yammer is a business network.

Us here at iDB use Yammer for internal communication. Frankly, Path could be onto something here. Should they evolve the feature set and introduce features aimed at businesses, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Path giving the likes of Yammer a good run for their money.

A business model is important, but we want to be in a trust relationship with users. Evernote, Spotify and Dropbox have had great success with fermium models… Yammer and Basecamp have always been subscription models – so it’s not that different.

He says that the friction for converting users to a freemium service is much lower than it has been in the past. And with freemium being all the rage (just check out the top grossing iPhone and iPad apps – nearly all freemium entries now), he thinks some kind of a paid-for premium Path service is “worth a shot”.

The question is, will users be happy to pay for it?

Path isn’t the first private and paid-for social network, but I sincerely doubt there’s any real money to be made from charging consumers for the ability to share stuff with their friends. Companies, perhaps. But regular users, no. There are just too many free alternatives, some with privacy controls that let power users limit their sharing to an exclusive inner circle of the closest friends, just like Path does.

Why would you pay for something that the other guys give free of charge, in exchange for some ads?

Path 2.5.6 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)


I just don’t have the time and willingness to maintain another social presence so I don’t think I’m their premium demography. In between blogging, Twitter, Facebook (where it’s “like being at a party all the time”, as Dave puts it), running errands and what not, I have little precious time left that.

And as I grow older, I find myself increasingly reluctant to waste my time on Earth contributing to the online echo chamber. You could say I’ve fallen behind the curve, but it’s just the way it is.

Time, my friends, is the only resource that’s completely irreplaceable and out of our control, keep that in mind.

Which brings me to my final question: would you consider paying for a premium Path experience?

And can any social network expect to charge users now that the Facebooks, Googles and Twitters of this world have spoiled us with their ad-driven, free-everything approach?