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Path, a more intimate social-networking app that’s like a personal journal, is now growing by 1 million registered users a week after its most recent launch. Now, Path is among the top apps on the App Store, and has shown some significant staying power, according to AppData. Path’s growing popularity, competition with Facebook, and exact same feature set as Instagram (a feature set that is now worth $1 billion), begs the question: How much could this app be worth?

Written March, 2012:

On February 1st, 2012 the mobile timeline app known as Path announced a photo effect called depth. In doing so, not only was Path upstaging the mobile offerings of Facebook, it brought Instagram’s exact feature set to the app as well.  An announcement of this nature should have generated some buzz in the social media sphere. However – due to an impetuous display of public relations – the announcement was made at the peak of the frenzy following Facebook’s declaration that it would go public, and therefore didn’t generate as much buzz as expected. Despite this, thanks to Facebook’s recent billion dollar purchase of Instagram, Path may soon be getting the attention it was once denied.

In integrating Depth to enhance its photo editing feature, Path acquired the exact same feature set as Instagram – a feature set that is now worth $1 billion. Therefore, the follow-up question remains: How much is Path worth?

Unlike Instagram, which offered its features for free; Path makes a little money by selling some of the photo filters. I have been using Path for a while now and, though its social dynamics are similar to Instagram’s, I would argue that Path has a better interface. While Instagram boasts only its feature set for photos, Path allows videos, text statuses, place check-ins, and songs. I would describe Path as the perfect combination of Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, and Twitter. Path, in my opinion, basically took the best features from each social network and combined them all into one app.

In addition to Depth and the photo features, Path’s newest version also plays a similar role to Gowalla – another app Facebook bought and immediately shut down. With Gowalla in the bag and Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram, Path and Facebook are staring each other down, feature for feature. Which brings us to our initial question of Path’s worth. However, this is a question that, initially, must be considered in terms of value rather than dollars. It’s not a question of how much money the app will sell for, but rather who will buy it.

Instagram is 1% of Facebook’s new valuation. Despite this, $1 billion seems like a very generous amount of money to pay for a company with no revenue. However, there was no generosity involved. Instagram, in fact, put up quite the fight, turning down several other offers. Therefore, the large sum of money Facebook finally forked over was most definitely the result of a bidding war – rather than munificence on Facebook’s part. Facebook tried to cut a deal with Instagram in 2011, and (when that was shot down) attempted building its own competing photo filters. However, I believe a competition with Google – or another social site-  served as the determining factor, causing Facebook to make Instagram an offer they couldn’t turn down. Hence, it is safe to assume that Facebook bought Instagram with the ulterior motive of keeping it away from a competitor.

If the billion dollar price of Instagram tells us anything, it’s a definite indicator that some competitor (my money’s on Google) wanted a piece. Now that Instagram is off the market, Path is the only app remaining that holds a candle to all of Facebook’s acquired features. Therefore, while the bet against Facebook for Instagram is over, the one for Path may be just beginning.

 

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