This article was published on December 20, 2012

Path boosts social discovery for its 5 million users with the addition of Search and Nearby features

Path boosts social discovery for its 5 million users with the addition of Search and Nearby features
Ken Yeung
Story by

Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startup Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startups, parties, and interesting people. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and Google+.

Path is releasing an update to its iOS and Android applications. Starting today, users are going to notice Path Search, a new feature that the company says will help make it easier for them to rediscover, relive, and have serendipitous moments with their friends.

With over 5 million users, Path has amassed an enormous amount of content from interactions with the app. Whether it’s a check-in, photo being posted, comments, emotions, Nike+ statistics, it’s ripe for analyzing and using within Path’s Search feature. Just how massive is it? According to Nate Johnson, the company’s Vice President of Marketing, it’s been interacted with over 3 billion times.

In a blog post, the company compares Path to being a place to keep our memories safe. For many, traditional storage places have been shoe boxes, notebooks, photo albums, home videos, folders of pictures on computers, cell phone libraries, and more. With Search, people can go back in time to their very first moment or to a specific event they’ve shared with their friends and relive it over and over again.

Indexing required

As soon as you receive the update, one of the first things you’ll need to do is begin to index your content so that the search will work. Not only can you index your Path memories, but you can also import from Foursquare, Instagram, and Facebook — you will need to authorize each service first. Johnson says that this process could take a while to parse through everything, but Path is working to expedite it — naturally, the more you import, the longer it’ll take.

Using Search

Path version 2.9 Search suggestionsOnce indexing has been completed, you can simply tap on bar to begin a search.  You’ll notice that there are search suggestions that appear. These vary each time you search and is meant to give you a starting point from which you can look up memories.

As you can see, searches can be by friend, places, dates and holidays, seasons and weather, locations, emoticons, specific type of moments, and more. Or, if you want, simply type in your query like you would on Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Johnson cautions that while Search is meant to help draw up the intended memories, it might require some fine-tuning on the company’s part. Some of the lexicons that people are accustomed to on traditional search engines may not work in this version — think of it like a work in progress.

If you choose to type in your search query in Path, you’ll see that there it typeahead and autocomplete technology implemented. When we began typing “ha” in our search bar, specific results for “Halloween”, “Hanukkah” and a “Happy Face” appeared. Another example is shown here.

The search results you get are limited to the 150 friend limit set on Path. While you might be able to tag other friends in memories on Path that you’re not connected to, the displayed results will not show them, unless there’s one of your 150 in the same memory.

Memories displayed are from the beginning of time, meaning that you can view results as far back as when Path 1.0 was released or whatever was imported from Facebook, Instagram, or Foursquare. The service looks at the metadata within each photo and video in order to analyze where it was taken and that’s accounted for in the search results.

Of course, if you wish to look for your specific memories, you can type in the word “my” and then a specific memory and it should be displayed.

Introducing Nearby

Path 2.9 Nearby screenshotAnother feature of Path Search is the ability to find out what’s nearby you when you’re using the application. Say you’re in the middle of San Francisco and most of your friends have been in the city before you. You might be interested in seeing what they’ve done, which could potentially lead to great sights to see, restaurants to eat at, activities to do, people to meet, etc.

With Nearby (no relation to Facebook’s Nearby feature, Path tells us), it will generate a list of memories from your friends based solely on your phone’s position in the world.

Special easter egg?

When we were given a demo, Johnson tells us that there’s a special type of query that can be made that will display all the emoticons in the app. If you were to search for “royal flush”, the app would display those moments where one of each emoticon was displayed. By that we mean each result would be a memory that had five different emotions shared.

Sure, it seems more like a novelty trick with little value, but the results could be pretty funny.

English only (for now)

Path’s Search feature is available only for those with English specified on their mobile device, even if it supports 20 languages. Path is still making tweaks and changes to the search feature, but it certainly brings something new to the experience.

It’s available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices now.

➤ Path for iPhone/iPad

➤ Path for Android

Photo credit: Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko/Flickr

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