Today in Social

I’m with Om, Path is no Instagram. I’m a fan of niche social networks, but Path feels like it’s going to stay niche. In real life, users belong to different circles of friends, family and colleagues for different contexts. Path has an elegant mobile application, but its very narrow focus on two-way sharing with a select group of friends doesn’t allow that context specificity. And its 2 to 3 million users guarantee that too many of a user’s network won’t be there on Path. Facebook, Twitter, and Google via Groups, Lists and Circles give users more fine-grained control over context groupings than they can handle. As Om points out, Path doesn’t seem to have that magic mix of social and broadcast models, nor a defining addictive behavior. It’s got $40 million in new funding to help figure out the latter.

Today in Social

Tagged, which claims to have 10 million active users for its social network that’s aimed at meeting new people rather than connecting with existing friends, announced it was acquiring another social network, hi5. Tagged says most of its members are outside the U.S., and hi5 will double its active user base. Hi5 has been re-positioning itself as a social gaming site for some time, and Tagged uses games as one of its vehicles to connect strangers. I think there’s a role for niche social networks, and geography and activity are two potential differentiators. But these days, isn’t it easier to lay those kinds of frameworks atop an existing platform like Facebook and Twiiter? Or try to harness Google+? If seems the only serious near-term threat to Facebook is lack of interest, rather than specialization. But we’ll keep watching.

Instamagic: The Story of a Red Hot App [Video]

It has been a magical few months for Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing startup. It has grown from nothing to more than 3.2 million users, and raised $7 million in funding. In this video, co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom shares the story of Instagram.

Today in Social

Some recent online items are making me wonder about the potential for niche social networks. Traffic data grimly underscores how far Myspace has fallen, while United Online is scrambling to re-invent Classmates.com as a nostalgia content site. But Disney sees a role for a kids-safe social network, and I’ve written earlier about how Myspace could regain some of its relevance. It seems logical that human beings have different networks for different contexts – work, movie tastes, music, local activities, school, etc. Facebook Groups notwithstanding, Facebook has absorbed many of those networks for people, but mingled them perhaps too much. I think open APIs and social graphs will enable niche networks, but maybe I’m just being optimistic.