Why Facebook won’t buy Path

facebook path

Immediately following the announcement of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, the “who’s next?” questions began to crop up. And that’s happening because the acquisition is seen as a sign of Facebook asserting itself as big, nearly public, business, and it’s not going to shy away from an expensive or attention-grabbing deal.

Naturally, the next contender to be acquired by Facebook is Path. Path and Facebook have an interesting relationship; the little social network that could originally launched as the anti-Facebook, limited your connections to 50 people, and focusing on privacy. It became a well-loved, yet small, community (partially thanks to its mobile-only status).

The Path 2.0 relaunch confirmed its place as a viable platform option – and yes, some of that was because of its incredibly beautiful new design. Sure, it bumped your friend list up to 150 and added some new integration, but the stunning user interface had us all saying this is what the Timeline should have been. 

But Path’s history isn’t the reason rumors Facebook is eyeing arose – it’s because, generally speaking, there are no more giants for the social network to topple. Facebook has turned its attention to mobile social platforms that are or could legitimately challenge them, and they are few and far between. There are plenty of niche apps like Viddy and Foodspotting, which will continue to do well, but aren’t attempting to compete with Facebook in the slightest.

Instagram – and Path for that matter – are different though, and Facebook knows it. The $1 billion acquisition means that Facebook is hell-bent on mobile, that’s where the future is, and if there will ever been a whiff of a Facebook killer, the company thinks it’s coming from a refined, beloved mobile app – not a Website.

So that’s where the rumor has come from. Here’s why it’s wrong. For starters, Facebook outright says it doesn’t want to play this game. “We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote, concerning the acquisition. Path would be exactly that. Also, the site has been recently tarnished by privacy concerns. While it’s doing its very best to appease users, it is a bit of blemish for an app that touts privacy as one of its biggest features. And while small social networks are an interesting trend, their longevity is anything but proven.

It would also be something of an acqui-hire. Facebook doesn’t need some technology or the user base that Path has, but it could use the team. However, that’s where CEO Dave Morin formerly worked, and part of the reason he left was because he wanted to create a social network that valued quality over quantity. He doesn’t seem likely to go back to Facebook.

Instagram had something Facebook needed and wanted pretty desperately: a passionate, viral mobile community, and photo-sharing. Really, Instagram did most of what Path is doing but better. If Facebook wants to perfect its grouping technology for Web or mobile, there are a variety of companies it could pocket: GroupMe or new app Everyme would seem like more suitable deals for Facebook to better clean up its listing feature.

But Instagram was special. It had all the right things at the right time that Facebook needed, and while mulling a Path purchase probably isn’t out of the question, don’t expect everyone’s favorite mini-social network to up and get bought anytime soon. 

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