tech: a pair of interesting social apps

There are too many social networks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t room for more. I don’t want anyone to make “the new Facebook” – Facebook, for all its faults, is Facebook, and it’s a site on which I’ve got pretty much everyone I’ve ever known and with whom I’d like to stay in contact listed. What I do want, however, is for people to make highly specialised social network sites and applications that perform a useful function very well, and interoperate with other networks nicely.

I can’t see myself replacing the big networks (Facebook, Twitter) with the Latest Big Thing, but I can certainly see myself using a “network of networks” – a constellation of networks that play nicely with each other, fulfil specific needs and together, give me a lot of control over who I’m sharing with and what I’m sharing.

With that in mind, I started trying out two new apps this week – Path and Pin Drop, both of which look like promising new stars in that “social constellation” (an utterly wanky term which I’m not honestly suggesting anyone else use, but I can’t think of anything better right now).


Path was recommended to me by @niczero, who’s been trying it out experimentally for a few days. His take on it is that it could be a really interesting app for sharing with a very limited group – close friends and confidantes, basically, rather than the “distant relatives, work colleagues and old schoolmates whom it’d be rude to refuse invites from” group which dominates on Facebook. He views Path, I think, as the kind of app where you can post everything, and then use the app’s fairly clear re-sharing settings to decide which of your other networks (Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare etc.) each item is retransmitted to.

I can see where he’s coming from; Path is quite intimate. It’s designed as a journal, with the idea being that you go through your day sharing where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing. You even tap the application before you go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning, and it posts how many hours of sleep you got. It’s got an Instagram-style photo editing and upload process, and although comments can be made, much of the social interaction comes from seeing who looked at the items you posted, and the ability to leave various smileys on items. It’s all quite cute and a little bit twee, but unquestionably quite compelling.

The intimacy of it is what makes it compelling, but also what would probably break it for a lot of people. If you have the ability to restrict your Path list to the people you’re genuinely close to, it’ll work nicely; if you can’t resist adding vague acquaintances out of some sense of social nicety, you’re going to end up sharing very little on the app. I like the idea of it as a “superset” of social networks, but don’t see myself using it that way – just as my Facebook and Twitter have gradually diverged (Facebook is for personal-life stuff, chatting to friends who have no connection to my work, while Twitter is largely a medium where I chat about work, current affairs and so on with a mixture of people I know and people I don’t know but find interesting), Path could branch off as a “third way”, a network where I post comfortably about my life without being concerned about the audience. Right now that seems like a nice idea. Whether it can build critical mass based on that idea alone – and thieve away the few minutes a day required to keep it updated – remains to be seen. It’s worth looking at for the app design alone, though, as it’s a very deeply lovely app. Find it at

Pin Drop

I think this is an app that only launched a few days ago, but it’s one which you look at and ask yourself why nobody has done this before. It’s a singularly brilliant idea – an application where you drop pins on a map and write short descriptions of what you’re tagging, essentially aimed at letting you map and store your own favourite restaurants, cafes, bars – whatever you like. As a city dweller, this is a great idea – how often does someone from out of town say “hey, is there a good bar around here?”, only for you to start sweating as your mind goes utterly blank – you know there are loads, and you’ve been to them, but you can’t bring one to mind for the life of you…

The other side of the app at the moment is that it’s also got curated lists, so you can go and view a professionally compiled list of, say, London’s best cafes (a really good list, which managed to catch pretty much all of my favourites with the small exception of the excellent Store Street Espresso) or the best hotel bars in the city. The number of professionally compiled lists is small at present (just four for London – no idea if other cities have their own), but it’s easy to see this being a brilliant feature if it grows well and the quality stays high.

Problems? Yeah, a bucketload. It’s a very early application, and while the interface is attractive, it’s inconsistent and a bit buggy. Moving pins from the curated lists into your own list isn’t very intuitive (the button to do it is labelled “Re-pin”, which didn’t mean anything to me), and when you do so, their category labels are a bit wonky. The bugs, though, aren’t the main problem – the utter lack of any kind of social graph functionality is.

This is an app which cries out for the ability to share lists with friends, but right now, all you can do is send individual pins to your contacts. I’d love to be able to see my friends’ categories and browse their favourite spots; better again, I’d love to be able to “co-curate” a shared list with a group of friends, building up a list of our favourite spots in the city which is live-updated across all our devices. I’m sure this kind of functionality is coming down the road, but the lack of it at the moment really hampers the usefulness of the app. I’m enjoying using it, but very much chalking it up as “one to watch” rather than a certain hit – what happens in its development in the next couple of months is crucial. Find it at

Anyone else spotted a new social app that looks interesting and worth a shot? Let me know – on Twitter, of course…

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