With its latest update, Path is adding an important new feature — the ability to search through all of your content, as well as your friends’.
Co-founder and CEO Dave Morin told me yesterday that even though he’s described Path as a journaling app in the past (when Path unveiled its big revamp last year, he said it was a for users to “capture all the experiences” on their path through life), “The one thing that we haven’t really enabled is a way for us to go back and search through that journal in a way that’s really powerful and really easy.” That’s something Morin said he’s been planning from the very start, and today it’s available to users.
The idea of adding a search feature may not seem all that innovative or unique, until you think about how hard it is to find old content on the big social networks — to the extent that companies like Timehop and Memolane have built services specifically to unearth your old updates.
With Path search, you can now find all the updates in your network that are tied to a certain friend, place, time of year, birthday, or emotion. So for example, when Morin demonstrated the app, he was able to bring up all the updates that he made a year ago (looks like he was doing a lot of skiing), or narrow the search even further by looking at all the updates he made a year ago with his wife Brit.
What’s particularly powerful about Path’s search feature is the fact that the app has access to metadata that wasn’t directly entered by the user. Morin did a search for skiing, bringing up many updates that where the caption explicitly mentioned skiing, but also a number of others where skiing didn’t come up in the text at all — Path could extrapolate that they were ski-related because of the location. He also did a search for “sunset” and again, Path made an educated guess at which photos included sunsets based on the time (as a result, there were a few non-sunset photos mixed in, but not enough to be annoying).
There’s also the ability to specifically search for “Nearby” updates. This might be particularly useful when you’re traveling, so you can see the places visited and photos shared by your friends when they were in the same neighborhood or city — creating, in Morin’s words, “an asynchronous shared experience.”
The search engine seems to allow for some pretty sophisticated searches — Morin was able to find his “first photo with Amy [Swanson, who does PR for Path].” That kind of searching can take a while to learn, but Path has already created a friendly on-boarding process. When you first select the search feature, Path gives you a big list of suggested searches and search types, giving you a sense of what’s possible. And if you’re not sure what to search for, you can just choose something from the list.
I bet the new search feature will encourage me to post to Path more often. I’m actually weirdly dogmatic about minimizing my cross-posting between social networks, so I often ask myself, “Okay, what should I post to Path versus Instagram versus Facebook?” Now that I know that content I upload to Path will be just a search a way a few months or a year from now, I’m more inclined to treat the app as the default place to post my content, with cross-posting elsewhere as appropriate. I know there are people who already treat Path that way, but again, making old content more discoverable should encourage that behavior.
Morin also disclosed that Path has now reached 5 million registered users.