The great unbundling continues

June 23rd, 2014

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, recently did a small AMA on Product Hunt. He pointed out this article on Wired about Path breaking apart its mobile apps into other applications. Something I wrote about recently as well. Here is some interesting bits from the article.

All this “unbundling” is a response to multiple market forces in the world of mobile devices, but for Morin, splitting the Path app in two is a way of keeping up with the capriciousness of today’s mobile phone users. “On mobile, we’re starting to see this trend where people try out a social app and everyone flocks to it for a while and then they move on to another one, and this happens at a much faster rate these days,” Morin says. “We wanted to move into a situation where we have a sound foundation but then can release multiple apps on into the future.”

It is hard to argue with this thinking. Just about every week “the masses” switch from one app to the next. Not just in social networking but also camera apps, messaging, etc. So if Path is repeatedly a source of new apps, rather than simply a single app, then perhaps they can be a choice.

But Morin also says that in becoming a “multi-app company,” Path can also take take better advantage of new technologies on mobile phones and even fix mistakes it has made in the past.

He goes on to mention that new phones with new features, sensors, etc. are released all of the time and that new apps from Path can take advantage of these more easily than older, more legacy ridden apps.

However, there is — as always — some caveats.

Like Facebook, Path is completely removing messaging from its existing app. If you want to continue trading quick messages with people in your Path network–something that has driven much the service’s growth in recent times, according to Morin–then you’ll have no choice but to download the new Path Talk app. Some people won’t want to do that, and even if you do make the move, there’s no guarantee that all your online friends will move with you.

To me this is the biggest risk. Why didn’t App.net work out? Wasn’t it’s Alpha service as good if not better than Twitter? That is certainly debatable. But what wasn’t debatable is that there were not enough people using Alpha day-to-day to make the service as valuable or interesting as Twitter is.

Social services are made or broken by their users. If they don’t get millions of users they will not succeed. Camera apps aren’t so tied to popularity. Even a relatively healthy audience per app should be enough to make money on.

For my own personal usage I think Path breaking out messaging and also this new “TalkTo” service they acquired makes complete sense. Because, while I thought Path was gorgeous, I found the limit on friendships to be too limiting for me to use the app regularly. By breaking these new apps out I can give Path a try again in a whole new way.