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In Indonesia, Path Still Hangs On

But the mobile-first social network has already been supplanted by Instagram

June 6, 2017 | Social Media

Remember Path? The photo-focused social network was launched in November 2010, just a month after Instagram was released to the world. Co-founded by Shawn Fanning of Napster fame and Facebook executive David Morin, Path sought to differentiate itself by limiting the number of contacts a user could initially have to just 50.

While Facebook was encouraging its users to share everything with everyone, Path—which was designed as a mobile-first app—represented a future in which social media users could more carefully choose their group of online friends and family. In some ways, it served as a precursor to bespoke group chats commonly created on messaging apps—or even as a harbinger of Snapchat, which gained prominence with the promise of impermanent social sharing among its users.

However, Path was never really able to gain a substantial user base.

In 2015, the service was sold to South Korea-based firm Daum Kakao, the company behind messaging service KakaoTalk, which draws heavy use in South Korea. (The company is now known as Kakao Corp.)

At the time of its sale, Path had a reported 4 million users in Indonesia, which makes sense given the mobile-first nature of the market. eMarketer estimates 25.8% of Indonesia’s population, or 67.1 million people, will own a smartphone by the end of this year. For many of those people, the smartphone will represent their first—and perhaps only—means of getting online.

According to data from JakPat, Path is still hanging on in Indonesia, although just barely. The platform was used by 24.0% of smartphone users in the country surveyed in April 2017.

Social Networks Used by Smartphone Users in Indonesia, April 2017 (% of respondents)

It’s worth noting that Snapchat has not caught on at all in Indonesia, and was used by just 5.1% of those surveyed. That’s likely because Snapchat’s focus on video and use of real-time filters is proves taxing on more commonly bought low- to mid-tier smartphones that lack high-end processors, as well as adequate RAM and on-device storage space.

The type of video-sharing common on Snapchat is also a likely impediment to smartphone users on cellular networks. These users are probably unwilling to burn their relatively costly monthly data quotas on sending or downloading video files.

Path’s prospects in Indonesia are not great, given that Instagram, which is similarly focused on photo content, already had a penetration rate of about 70% among respondent’s to JakPat’s poll.

But Path’s continued presence in Indonesia is a good reminder of how emerging markets continue to be shaped by limitations that are less commonly found in industrialized ones like the US, such as low-end phones and slower telecom infrastructure.

Rahul Chadha

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