Is it time for an (anti) social network?

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There was a time, circa 2006, when alongside New Rave, it was oh-so-very-cool to boast about how many friends you had on Facebook. Flash forward four years and many of us are now wondering if it’s appropriate to have ‘that person you once spoke to at school’ as an online friend – particularly if you’re hiding from them in the supermarket.

These days, it’s more fashionable to have a friend cull than to appear too keen and, where I once secretly tittered at those who had less than 100 friends (I’m not proud of it), I now admire their exclusivity. 

Step forward Path, a new social network launched today, which limits users to just 50 friends.

With backing from some serious digital heavyweights, including former Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin, Macster co-creator Dustin Mierau and Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning (aka Justin Timberlake in the Social Network), it’s clear that Path is not just a flight of fancy from some young bedroom coder.

The key for Path is the 50 friend limit; supposedly this is the maximum number of personal contacts our brain is programmed to deal with effectively.

Whether Path will ever compete with Facebook and Twitter remains to be seen, but it does strike me that this new approach meets a growing need. Having 50 friends ultimately means you can trust who you post information to. In light of recent reports into cyber bullying and the net’s ongoing threat to our personal privacy, trust is something that larger networks are starting to erode.

However, whether Path can meet our inherent need to show off and become a sustainable network, is up for debate. Watch this space.