Path Talk will help you avoid customer service calls, plus text your friends

Social network app Path is launching a messaging app, Path Talk, that will let users message friends music, pictures, maps, and text, plus shoot quick messages to businesses to skip lengthy customer service calls. Will its grab bag of services be enough to compete with Facebook, Foursquare, WhatsApp, and Snapchat?

Social networking app Path is releasing a new messaging app called Path Talk.

No longer reserved for selfie-taking teens (Snapchat) or social media mavens (FourSquare, Swarm), micro-messaging has recently become the digital communication trend du jour.

App makers have noticed and more are trying to get a slice of messaging money. The latest offering is from social network app Path, which previously attempted to be a close-knit micro-social network that capped the max number of friends at 150. Now Path has launched messaging app Path Talk, acquired a customer-to-business app, expanded the number of friends allowed, and tweaked its policies to make the app more privacy-conscious. Does it have enough to be heard above the increasingly loud mobile messaging market?

Path Talk is now the only way to message if you are a Path user, similar to how Facebook moved all its messaging to the Facebook Messenger app. Path Talk allows users to have an “ambient status,” essentially showing what a user is doing or where they are at any given time. You can send messages beyond text, such as sending music, pictures, maps, books, and more. All messages will be deleted off the Path server after 24 hours. Users can also message across various operating systems, quickly swipe to chat, and send artist-created stickers – a.k.a. in-house emojis.

Sounds sort of like Snapchat, Facebook, FourSquare, and WhatsApp rolled into one, you’re probably thinking. What can Path, a San Francisco-based company launched in March 2013, and Path Talk uniquely offer?

That differentiating feature is on its way. Path recently acquired customer-to-business messaging app TalkTo, which lets customers text messages to companies and receive a quick response (plus pay extra for an extra speedy response). Sort of like a customer service number, but without the orchestral hold music and long wait times. Path says that this feature is on its way for Path Talk users, meaning that soon users could communicate with friends and businesses all in one place.

"When you look at your messages, you're calling a lot of businesses, and yet texting a lot of friends and family -- why can't you text message businesses in your life?" Path chief Dave Morin said in an with CNET. "We started to have this vision of messaging not just being a messaging app, but also a hub for your life."

Path also took away its capped friend policy. Users can now have unlimited friends. This is a major change from the company’s foundations, which operated on Dunbar’s number – the idea that humans only can sustain up to 150 people in their social networks at a time. Though it may have theoretical validity, social networks have almost always operated on the principle that more friends are better, and potential Path users agreed, balking at the low limit. Now offering unlimited friends may be going back on Path’s fundamental ideas, but does fall more in line with what people expect from their social networks. Disruptive, no. Consumer-oriented, yes.

This comes on the heels of Facebook splitting off its Messaging app (and paying $19 billion for global messaging app WhatsApp), Snapchat adding a text-messaging feature, and FourSquare spinning off into a check-in and networking app, Swarm. Who will dominate the conversation? We’ll find out in time. Now it’s time for customers to get talking.

Path is available for iOS and Android on Friday.

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