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App aims to make a social network more personal

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - Interested in sharing more personal moments of life to a small group of friends rather than a large network? An app called Path could help.

Originally conceived as a way to post photos and videos for close family and friends to see, the app was re-released this month as a "smart journal" to enable users to share more about their lives.

"Because Path is a smaller network that's built for the people you love -- the closest friends and family in your life -- people are willing to share more intimate content as a result of that," said Matt Van Horn, a vice president at Path.

He added that although some of details of life might seem mundane when broadcast to the masses, they can take on a newlight when shared with closer connections.

"Taking a photo on the porch with your sister if you were to post to a larger network might not be that interesting. But if your mom, who is on the other side of the country, sees it then it's magical," he said.

The app also learns a user's habits, such as favorite places, and can recognize deviations in patterns and broadcast them to their 'path', the social stream visible to a user's connections.

Inspired by British anthropologist and Oxford professor Robin Dunbar, Path limits the number of social connections a user can have to 150 people. It is considered the upper limit of the number of trusted relationships a person can have, and is a direct function of our biology.

The average user on Path has five to ten connections.

Since its re-launch, Path has experienced a 30-fold increase in the number of daily users, according to its creators.

Although the app is free, users must pay for some features. But the company said it will not include ads on the site.

"We believe in creating quality products that our users will want to pay for," Van Horn said.

Path, available for iOS and Android devices, also integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Tumblr to allow cross-posting to the social networks.

Similar apps for creating digital journals include Momento and Day One.

"Facebook changed the world. People were themselves for the first time, putting their real name on the Internet, and then connecting with every person they had ever met," said Horn.

"But we really believe the next generation of social is going to be personal."

(Reporting by Natasha Baker; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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