Why Automattic Should Buy Path

(Alternate Title) How WordPress Can Fix Social

I went to the breakout NYC PandoMonthly Event this by Pando Daily past week. It was a pleasure watching Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda), doing what she does best: interviewing one of my heroes Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) all about WordPress, how he got started, the future of WP, social networks and distributed work environments.

During the conversation, which I recommend y’all watch as soon as it’s posted, Matt discussed how WordPress has only skimmed the surface of social, and how the little they’ve tried has reaped 40x normal engagement.

I first heard about Path from Jason Calacanis (@jason) on TWiST and then several months later when he was talking about how people don’t trust Facebook anymore. He said that he trusts Path and that means a lot to me but honestly, who wants to sign up for yet another social network? I usually am an early adopter of tools and services, I like exploring new ideas. But… another… social… network? I finally tried it out because the rockin’ Noni Cavaliere (@missversatile) told me that I _have _to.

Path ROCKS in many many ways. It has a beautiful interface. It’s really really easy to use. And it lets you pass your post on, frictionlessly, to any of the other rockstar networks you’d want to share with. The idea is that you add to your Path network your close friends and family — the people you want to share your life with — and if there are some things you want to share further, it’s really easy to do.

This solves one of the adoption issues. Because of its beautiful interface, you want to share things, and since you can share to all the places you’d want to share to, it becomes your go-to app for social sharing.

My problem with Path is, ultimately, that you have to trust it in the end.

When I started with Facebook it was the perfect walled garden. I could share my life on it without worrying about being judged. Sure, whatever you put online you have to monitor, but Facebook today makes you feel like a product. Bacteria in a petri dish, where their scientists throw all sorts of things at us to see what we osmose. That’s their business model. We are the product, marketers are the clients, and Facebook sells our information to them. Ultimately, you’re just a number to everyone… but it still makes me feel… Icky. Things on Facebook may look peachy but are they really?

And that’s the problem with Path. Here’s a scenario: Path takes off, everyone adopts it. Then the VCs come in and say: “How will you monetize?” Then Path goes to milk its greatest asset… Us. Again. So why would I want to go through that all over again?

The space in social that is wide open for the taking is the safe social space.

I want to own my own content. I want to know that I can hide it, take it down, delete it, do whatever the fuck I want with it… because my life is MINE. And I don’t want anyone else owning it, using it in ads, selling it, without my explicit knowledge and control. I don’t want my privacy settings changed behind my back and if I wanted to be posted in ads all over the place I would have become a model. There isn’t _real _privacy today. And maybe that’s a problem.

This, I really truly hope, is why the centralized social networks will die eventually.

Diaspora had the right idea. They did a great job jumping on a wave of privacy discontent. What they got wrong was ease-of-adoption. Only a hacker can really use it in its full de-centralized glory.

WordPress understands user trust. They are about as transparent as you can get. Anyone can dig into the codebase and see exactly what they’re doing with your information. At any time you can export your WordPress.com account and spin your own self-hosted flavor…. and BOOM! You’re in complete control. Even Jetpack, the new integration of tools between the self-hosted flavor and wp.com hosted site, is a plugin that you can open up and dissect.

The ideal social network needs to work like this. Which is why Automattic — the WordPress.com company — should buy Path.

The ideal social network would give you the ease-of-use and ease-of-adoption of Path, with the transparency and control of WordPress. Even the concept that Path sells — Path should provide you with the simple way to keep a journal, or “Path,” of your life on the go. — fits perfectly with the WordPress model… and is ultimately what I want my personal private blog to be.

…and if Automattic doesn’t feel like buying Path, perchance Path will consider building a spinoff platform on WordPress that hooks into the Path network…

As always, I love your input. Please comment below and let me know what you think.

Update @PhotoMatt, the Automattic CEO replied…