Why Path will finally succumb to Facebook

Dec 01, 2011

Table of contents:

  1. A brief history of Path
  2. Facebook’s poor efforts at trying to crack the mobile platform
  3. Why would Facebook want to acquire Path?
  4. Why would Path want to be acquired?
  5. How much would Path cost

Path have recently launched the 2.0 of their private social network with their ground breaking new mobile application. But Path continues to fail break through the niche and find its way into the main stream market. Supported by a freemium business model, Path is on the bleeding edge of mobile user interface design and experience, but how long can they pursue their goal without mainstream adoption? On the other hand Facebook has had seen huge adoption of it’s social network, yet continues to fall behind with their mobile applications. Is it only a matter of time before Facebook acquires Path and Dave Morin returns to Facebook?

A brief history of Path

In early 2010, Dave Morin leaves Facebook to start a new company. Dave was one of the first Facebook employee’s and is seen in the industry as a leading innovator.

Morin begins to allure some of Silicon Valley’s top players and they launch Path, a social network that is restricted to only your closet friends. Path is limited to 50 connections and its very restricted in what you can do as a user. Initially you could only upload photos, but slowly Morin added the ability to add comments and other features as the product slowly grew.

Path had one of the richest talent pools in the industry, and so it wasn’t long before the big boys came knocking in late 2010. However the offer was rejected, instead Morin decided to take on Venture Capital money lead by Kleiner Perkins.

In October, 2011, Morin revealed that Path was approaching a million users. Path also decided to increase the friend limit to 150. Despite Path’s talent rich team and strong investors and management, Path could not boast the vanity metrics of other niche social networks.

And finally, a couple of days ago, Path announced their 2.0 of the product. Moving towards more of a mobile journal, the latest version of Path unveiled a slick new user interface and a many ground breaking ways of display data about location and user interaction.

Facebook’s poor efforts at trying to crack the mobile platform

Facebook’s mobile applications have, for a long time, been a complete joke. The current Facebook mobile application borrows an incredible amount of features and design from other leading mobile applications. Previous to this version, the Facebook mobile applications have been stagnant and bug ridden.

A lot of the success of Facebook can be attributed to the huge opportunity that mobile has presented over the past couple of years. Finally the technology has been made available to allow users to interact with many of the features of Facebook in a acceptable manor. Geo-location, increased photo capture technology and the application revolution have given Facebook an excellent opportunity to increase their growth and engagement through mobile applications.

In the recent past, Facebook has been acquiring a number of small design and mobile development companies, with some of the leading talents in the industry being brought into the Facebook family. It is quite obvious that Facebook is building it’s team to fully attack mobile in the near future, but up until now, it has blown just about every opportunity to fully maximise the mobile opportunity.

Why would Facebook want to acquire Path?

Path have some of the best mobile designs and developers who have so far produced two of the best mobile applications, Path and With Path’s talent, and under the leadership of Morin, Facebook could finally step out of the shadow of it’s mobile competitors. Facebooks needs to be on the cutting edge of what is possible in mobile interaction, not chasing the coat tails and copying design and development from others. With an acquisition of Path, Facebook would finally have the talent to do just that.

Path’s 2.0 release of their product is the next step for Facebook. Path have nailed frictionless sharing, the ability to post music and photos and geo-location, all of which Facebook is aiming to incorporate into their core product, but have so far failed. An acquisition of Path would finally allow Facebook to be on the cutting edge of mobile development. Path’s product is already a polished version of what Facebook could only hope to achieve, yet Path continues to struggle to find the correct user base.

Why would Path want to be acquired?

Morin has already turned down one acquisition attempt, and I think it would be hard to convince him to sell his company to Facebook at any price. However Morin is a product person with a clear vision of what he wants. Path have so far created an excellent niche product, but at Facebook, Morin could bring those product values to a user base of 700+ million. Morin and his team could continue to shape mobile interaction and their vision on the biggest, most successful network of humans ever. Morin is clearly dedicated to his vision, but the allure of shaping such a huge part of the future could be enough to convince him to take on the momentous challenge that could face him.

How much would Path cost

Morin has already turned down an offer of Path for $100 million from Google and he has since shown steady progress in terms of users and a continued evolution of a ground breaking product. Path is generating money through it’s sales of virtual goods, however it is unknown (and unlikely) that Path is profitable. Keeping in mind that this acquisition is really more about the talent and the technology rather than the user base, I would say an offer of around $175-$225 million would be fair offer for Path’s assets.

Only time will tell for the future of Facebook’s mobile strategy and where Morin’s Path eventually takes him. However, two things are very clear; 1 - Facebook need to seriously attack the mobile space before it’s too late, and 2 - Path needs to cross the chasm into the mainstream, or face being a product that was good but failed.

What do you think?

Philip Brown


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