Photo app Path gets new features

The sparse, restrictive photo-sharing app seems to have realized that it needs to get a little bit more flexible in order to appeal to a wider swath of users.

Path, a photo-sharing app that had previously chosen to eschew the trendy features that have been giving other photo apps a leg up in buzz and viral proliferation, announced on Friday that it is, in fact, adding some of those same trendy features.

More specifically, the "Version 1.5" of the Path iPhone app, which is slated to go live later on Friday, allows users to share photos on Facebook, whereas previously they were limited to a Path friends list--which is capped at 50 people. They can be selected to be visible either only to members of that user's Path friends list or to the user's Facebook friends as a whole. The Path interface has also been cleaned up a bit, using an algorithm to determine "top friends" as well as peppering the main activity feed with actions other than photos--friends' comments, views, and reactions to the individual user's photos, something that was initially only visible to

In addition, Path has added a new feature called "Lenses" so that users can tweak their photos with artsy filters much in the way that they would do with the wildly popular Instagram app. Something different: A handful of those filters are free, but several others are sold for 99 cents apiece, Path's first revenue source (albeit a minor one).

Last month, Path opened up the gates a bit on its previously sparse photo-sharing service, adding comments and the ability to post via e-mail .

Founded by former Facebook exec Dave Morin with the help of Napster founder Shawn Fanning, the start-up was in "stealth mode" for months and raised an astonishing amount of venture capital for a free app that not only had no revenue model, it didn't even seem to be visibly catching on with users. Path's mantra of keeping the app ultra-private meant that people simply weren't learning about it as quickly as they were with overnight successes like Instagram, something to which its founders responded with a profession of belief in "slow growth" that can be stable and loyal.

But with Friday's update, it's clear that Path is hoping to shift the gears on that "slow growth" a little bit. The new version of the app comes right at the start of the social-media blowout South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Tex., where its more public and viral-friendly competitors (in terms of photo-sharing and also private group messaging, which arguably overlaps with Path in a few ways too) are already front-and-center at the conference. Path is keeping a low profile in Austin, but the timing is likely not a coincidence.

 

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