/// Path, a More Personal Social Networking App, Is Adding 1 Million New Users a Week
Path, a more intimate social-networking app that’s like a personal journal, is now growing by 1 million registered users a week after its most recent launch.
The newest version of Path includes a way to message your friends — for which Path limits to 150 — and send them stylized stickers like other top messaging apps. Around half of Path’s registered users (now at 9 million) are regularly using the app on a monthly basis, CEO Dave Morin said.
Most of the growth is now occurring in English-speaking parts of the population after seeing significant growth in Central and South America — particularly among Spanish-speaking populations — he said. He said the growth started with Venezuela, where Path added around 500,000 users in a weekend, and then spread up through Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean before reaching Spanish speakers in the U.S.
Now, Path is among the top apps on the App Store, and has shown some significant staying power, according to AppData. Here’s a chart showing its progress:
Another point worth noting is that Path is starting to creep up on the top-grossing charts. Path sells packages of stickers and filters, and while Morin wouldn’t comment on how much the company is making, he said it’s “doing quite well, better than we expected.”
We caught up with Morin to find out more about Path’s coming changes. Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:
WSJ: Where are these new users coming from, and why is it growing this quickly all of the sudden?
Dave Morin: For the first couple of years, we’ve had great growth in Asian markets — Japan, Korea, China even, Indonesia. We learned a lot about how things work over there. We’ve been steadily growing in other markets, and had reasonably steady growth in the U.S. in more savvy markets, like cities. In March, when we released Path 3.0, which included messaging, we saw quite a bit more growth. By January or February we were seeing 50% more traffic with existing users due to the search feature (which was released in December).
Once we released Path 3.0, which had some improvements around helping people invite their friends, we’ve really started to grow in new and different markets. It started with Venezuela, growing to something like 500,000 users over a weekend. Then it started to move across Spanish-speaking populations like Central America and Columbia. We also rolled out search in Spanish, and it went up the peninsula into Mexico, and jumped into the Caribbean Then we saw an even bigger spike in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and then it moved into the Spanish-speaking population of the U.S. We’re seeing a lot of pockets that were highly-connected to Puerto Rico.
WSJ: And now Path breaking into the U.S.?
DM: We hadn’t climbed the App Store charts by then, but we’re starting to break into English-speaking populations. Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, it’s moving across the west with a pretty good growth-spike in New York. When the Los Angeles growth started, we’ve always been a top 50 social app, or top 300 overall, but we moved up and made it to No. 7 last week during the Los Angeles spike. We’ll usually see intense growth and then it moves on to another country, but the really interesting thing is we moved up from our former rank to top 20 and stayed there.
We’re adding around 1 million registered users a week now. During a recent spike, the app was being installed three times per second. It’s completely organic — we weren’t featured in the App Store or anything, and it’s the U.S. We’re going to hit 9 million this week, but we’ll be around 10 million next week.
WSJ: What’s growing faster, Android or iPhone?
DM: What happens is, and we heard this anecdotally, Android tends to lag iOS and then they sort of Yin and Yang each other. We were behind on Android up until last week and then we moved into the top 20 on Android. Generally Android has increased as a percentage of our total base quite substantially this quarter. We’re pretty much at 50-50 for new users, with iOS having a 60-40 edge in total activity. In those markets, in Latin America and Asia, a lot of that growth is Android. The U.S. growth is skewed iOS, but Android is still very strong.
A screenshot of Path’s messaging feature, with stickers.
WSJ: What’s prompting the growth? Messaging?
DM: People open the app many times a day. Our monthlies are half of our total, and we have a 50% engagement rate which is pretty good. We’re in the same ballpark as Facebook FB +0.11%. The thing we actually started to learn working in Asian markets was that a good Path user has about eight friends in their first seven days. If you can do that, you have a great experience. That was the old Path 2.0 experience. With the addition of messaging, the number goes even lower. The combination of those two things causes people to be excited. Messaging itself is really fast, and we have really fun stickers.
WSJ: How’s the stickers business going?
DM: It’s increasing every day, but we’re new to it. We didn’t really understand it and designed it with a lot of assumptions, but it’s doing quite well. We’re rolling out new stickers every week. Last weekend we rolled out a new pack from the designer of the original Macintosh logo. We curate our artists ourselves. We’re also working with some really wonderful brands and characters, some of the most-loved characters in the world. People tend to really gravitate toward stickers that have some kind of character in them. We tested thousands of stickers and tried to really debug how you create a piece of art which can communicate a complex emotion or set of communications.
WSJ: Why do you think we’re seeing a kind of “renaissance” in messaging?
DM: If you think back to how personal computers evolved, it started with a command line and DOS and then it moved into a more graphical, understandable interface. I still think we’re in the era of social DOS right now. If you look at text messaging, it’s like a command line. Human communication is very complex, and messaging really hasn’t gone there. Because these things have touch screens and voice, you can do a lot more in terms of giving ways to communicate. People are actually pushing how we communicate through technology.
WSJ: Are people getting tired of Facebook and then coming to Path?
DM: When I left Facebook, one of the things that inspired me to start Path was a realization that I didn’t use Facebook to interact with my fiancé, or my mom or sister. I was connected to them, but I didn’t regularly use it. I would put photos on Facebook, or I would put things there, and yes it communicated slightly more information to them, but it wasn’t helping me have a deeper relationship.
I wanted to build a network which was entirely designed to take the relationships deeper with my mom, my sister, my closest friends and family, and do that all the time. There was a space for that to exist. Facebook does a really good job augmenting your brain and have more connection, but it doesn’t necessarily help you go deeper with those few people you really care about the most. That’s the reason we created the product. There’s definitely a need for it.
Facebook describes itself as a newspaper, and just like every town has a newspaper, they also have homes. Since we started the company, we’ve always described Path as your family home.
WSJ: Any plans for animated gifs?
DM: Sure. We have no bias against gifs. I don’t have any plans, but it’ll probably be coming pretty soon. One of the differences between your professional and personal life is people goof around a lot in their personal lives. You have a lot of fun with your friends. We wanted to make messaging really fun. There’s no reason we wouldn’t do that.
The Wall Street Journal – Matthew Lynley