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Surprising Science

Can the Internet Ever Be an Intimate Social Space?

Despite a recent privacy snafu, the creator of the smartphone-based social network Path says he wants to create a portable Internet that provides an intimate place for private social groups. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The social media app Path suffered some bad publicity in February when it was found uploading users’ address books without their permission. But in a sense, that criticism was ironic. Unlike Facebook, still the undisputed king of social media, Path separates friends into distinct circles, the way social groups work in real life. The design was a response to users who said they wanted more privacy than what Facebook offered. Path’s creator, Dave Morin, says this is why Path was designed to work only on smartphones, i.e. the circle of friends most people communicate with on their phones is a more intimate one. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Morin firmly believes that the future of computing is in handheld devices–not only smartphones but yet-to-be-invented “wearable computers that give you more data about your everyday life.” But eschewing the PC is not the only trend Morin is trying to buck. He is also taking cues from Japanese and Chinese social networks which allow users to eliminate advertising by paying a small service fee. The goal, says Morin, is to create a more intimate Internet where what you share with family and friends is not interrupted by advertisers.

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