The app landscape has finally reached peak messaging. The private social networking app Path, which once seemed like a viable Facebook alternative, has struggled to find a path (see what I did there) to success. So on Friday, the company did what all companies these days do: Launched a messaging app.
Path spun off its chat feature into Talk, an iOS and Android app that keeps messages around for 24 hours before they disappear. (Path only recently turned its messaging feature into an ephemeral one, a la Snapchat.) Talk isn't exactly like all the other messengers you're already using--the app shows what Path calls your "ambient status." That means the app tells your friends if you're nearby, what you're listening to, if you're in transit or working out. You don't offer up this information yourself, Talk uses its own sensors and microphones to deduce where you are and what you're doing. It's unclear if you can opt out.
"Through ambient status, Talk can automatically let your friends know when you're in transit, in the neighborhood, and even low on battery," the company said in a Friday blog post. "We've pioneered this new kind of context to reduce misunderstandings in a world where messaging has become a primary method of communication."
See? Path is just trying to help you out. Ambient status sounds similar to two opt-in features that Facebook recently rolled out: Nearby Friends and audio recognition. Both tools are opt-in, because Facebook has realized that people don't really want their activity broadcast without their permission.
Aside from ambient status, Talk also offers quick replies, or a shorthand you can use to respond without typing--a checkmark to confirm, a telephone to prompt a call, etc. The rest of Talk is Path's standard messaging: stickers, maps, music, and more.
Path also overhauled its main app, lifting the friend limit that defined the network for so long. When it launched, Path allowed you to friend just 50 people, a maximum based on a theory about human networks. Then it lifted the limit to 150. Now it's gone altogether. So what is Path good for now that its most-used feature has been unbundled? Not much. Path has followed the road established first by Facebook, which has spun off a handful of its popular features into stand-alone apps like Messenger and Paper, and then by Foursquare, which unbundled check-ins into an app called Swarm. But Facebook has other features to prop itself up now that chat is no longer apart of the picture. Does Path?
Still, if Talk is successful, it might not matter if Path itself folds. The company acquired messaging app TalkTo, another messaging app that lets you text businesses. Sort of. You can message a restaurant to book a reservation, for instance, but if the eatery lacks a presence on TalkTo, the app's agents will find out the answer for you. Path is folding TalkTo into Talk as a feature called place messaging. Path cofounder and CEO Dave Morin said Friday that he envisions the result, Path Talk, as the "communication hub for the people, groups, and places in your life. All in one place."
Pretty ambitious for a social networking app that, four years on, has yet to find its footing.
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