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Audacious Fox

Dave Morin, former CEO and co-founder of private social networking app, Path:

Overwhelmed by requests to rebuild a better @Path. Considering doing it. If you are interested in working on such an idea, DM me. Let’s see if a passionate team forms. If so, we’ll do it.

Path, if you’ve never heard of it, was one of the many social networks launched in the late 2000’s, but it had a unique twist: a 50-person network limit. I only used Path for a year or so — it shared a lot of similarities to Instagram in the early days, minus the whole discovery part — but I found it simple and enjoyable. The 50-person limit ended up being a healthy limitation, because when your only connections are current friends and family, there’s a real sense of authenticity and calm. Unfortunately, privacy and friend limits don’t necessarily help grow a social networking company, and in 2015 Path was sold to Korean company Daum Kakao, as the team doubled down on maintaining their traction in the Asian market.

Path’s still available today, but they’ve lifted their network size limit and haven’t done much to the core product since the sale. It’s not the same experience that it was in 2010. It’s also worth remembering that Path wasn’t perfect. Before iOS required apps to request address book permissions, Path was caught quietly uploading all of your address book contacts to their servers, and then spamming those numbers as a way to help you make more connections. Scummy.

Still, I think there’s room for a mobile-first, affordable (as in paid, because otherwise we’ll be right back to the data-selling square one we’re in right now with Facebook), limited social network. Mr. Morin’s tweet generated a lot of enthusiastic replies from investors, developers, and designers all interested in helping get such a project off the ground, but if Facebook’s shown us anything, it’s that there’s a chasm between showing support for a cause on social media and actually doing anything practical.

With Mr. Morin, though, creating a new, better Path could be a real possibility — it just might take a while. Mr. Morin, an ex-Facebooker himself, is currently helping run the venture capital firm he co-founded, Slow Ventures. Slow’s modus operandi, if the name didn’t give it away, is that “the most powerful ideas, companies, and industries aren’t created overnight.”

At this point though, it’s not about our hypothetical, private social network becoming as powerful as Facebook — it’s about having an alternative. A well designed, private, sustainable alternative. In 2010, Path’s features and limitations were interesting — today, they’re downright compelling.