Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Less is more when it comes to Path

New social photo sharing service Path has just launched amid a lot of social chatter and mixed, but largely positive reviews.

The big difference however with this service which is creating a lot of debate is the fact that Path is limiting friends to just 50, citing amongst other reasons, Dunbars law of social connections.  However the reason and the amount are irrelevant, what's interesting is the limit itself.

As every other service keeps on providing more, with email providers giving more storage, smart phones giving more apps, foursquare giving more badges and facebook just giving more of everything - it's strange to see a service setting limits.

On the surface their reasoning seems sound - this is a personal network for sharing photos with close and "real" friends.  The limit of 50 helps to reinforce this, meaning you can't simply import all your friends, followers and hangers on.  However, who's to say what a close friend is and how many of them you should have (ok, so Dunbar's 150 is probably about right), but in reality, this arbitry limit seems a little restrictive and big brotherish - a "we know best" mentality.

But it's none of these things - the limit of 50 friends is simply a gaming dynamic.

If you limit something, you create scarcity.  Scarcity means things are valued more.  Things which are valued more get used more and promoted more.

At a time when we feel everyone is a winner - with A grade exam pass rates seeming to ever increase and reward ceremonies giving a Gold for more and more obscure categories, it's nice to see someone saying no.

Scarcity can be a powerful mechanic and when worked well into a marketing programme can encourage increased engagement.  It can also be lost very quickly by making everyone a winner - this is a situation where you can't have your cake and eat it.

Not everyone can win Gold, not everyone can be Platinum tier and not everyone can be your friend.

I think Path is forcing users to make a choice on who the most valuable people are to them - and in turn are probably selecting the most valuable people to Path.

Creating scarcity can be a sure fire way of creating value.


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