Dave Morin Says Path Photo App is About “Making the World a Happier Place”

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enter and explore. Right now we’re into close personal photo sharing with your connections and contacts.

X: One of the neat features is “Seen it”—the notification that a photo you uploaded to Path has been seen by someone else. How central was that to the concept? Was it part of the design from the beginning?

MVH: We always knew it was going to be part of the launch version of the app. We think that because of the more personal network that we’ve created on Path, that people hopefully will feel comfortable showing who has seen their photos. We took that lead from some of the more intimate chat networks—BBM for example or Kick will show you if someone has read your text message or SMS. In regular e-mail clients and on Facebook I don’t know if that would be effective, but we feel that among a closer group of friends it’s something the world is going to be comfortable with.

X: What is the important thing to you about that feature? Why were you guys attracted to it?

MVH: We just thought it was a great mechanism for feedback. We were finding ourselves in situations where we would be talking to someone, and they’d say, ‘Oh did you see that album I posted of Facebook?’ I don’t know what percentage of people who look at photos on Facebook actually like or comment on a photo, so there is that unknown of who is actually looking at your content. We wanted to create a close-knit network where people are comfortable doing that.

X: I’ve got to ask you a question about the 50-friend limit. Your blog post Sunday seemed deliberately worded to draw a contrast with Facebook, where you can have 5,000 friends. What are the advantages of a smaller network, and did you see the 50-friend limit as a direct comment on Facebook and the lack of intimacy there?

MVH: It’s a great question. We are very fond of, and love, and need every day, our Facebook fix. And we think that while there are differentiators, we are carving out our niche in the area by limiting our network to 50 people. We actually see our network as very complementary to Facebook and there are ways we’ll be hooking in with Facebook in the future. And I believe there is a lot of value in posting certain photos and sharing certain items on Facebook. But there is this concept of, once you’re sharing with even one person you don’t completely trust, that changes your sharing behavior. That is the niche we’re carving out. That doesn’t mean that when someone gets engaged they don’t want to tell everyone immediately. And Facebook and Twitter are incredible platforms for that. But we think there is a more discrete set of photos that people want to share on a more intimate network.

X: You launched on iPhone. I have a lot of friends who have smartphones but they don’t all have iPhones. Do you see this as a multiplatform play? Is the iPhone just the first of many platforms where we can expect to see you guys?

MVH: If you were to judge us by our jobs page, you’d see we are actually hiring Android developers and BlackBerry developers. We also launched a full viewing experience on the Web. But we are a mobile-first platform. We want to launch everything first on mobile, with the Web second. And we absolutely want to be cross-platform on mobile.

X: What was the hardest thing about getting Path launched? Have you had any stumbles or pivots or things you had to go back and redo?

MVH: I think that’s part of the fun of being a startup, is doing that. Absolutely. But we’ve had a pretty clear vision from the beginning of the problem we’re trying to solve. We think we’ve done a decent job at launch, and we’re hoping to build something for the long-term here.

X: Yeah, I saw a quote from Dave Morin saying that you guys are building a 30-year brand. I kind of chuckled, because that’s such an eternity—software and Internet companies are lucky to be around after three years, let alone 30 years. He said in the same breath you guys are content to grow slowly and organically, which is at odds with the dominant startup philosophy these days of iterating fast. How do you build a startup slowly these days?

MVH: We have said that we’re really interested in slow, quality growth. We think that with a lot of networks these days, you see hockey-stick growth and then it either flatlines or … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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