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Summary:

Private social networking apps like Path and the SMS-based GroupMe are trying to capitalize on the fact that most people only communicate regularly with a relatively small set of contacts. That requires thinking about social networking and content in a new context.

“If Facebook built the city and Twitter built the news network, we’re trying to build the home,” said Dave Morin, CEO of private social network Path, at a GigaOM Mobilize panel this morning.

Morin told moderator and GigaOM senior writer Mathew Ingram that Path was surprised at first by the types of things that users wanted to share with their family and close friends — restaurant menus and signs, for example. But “there’s this innate human desire to collect places and capture stories about your day,” Morin said. So Path added more functions that let users chronicle their day — they can even say when they’re sleeping, and it’s become one of the app’s most popular functions.

“The information you naturally consume inside your home is quite different from most of the information you consume as you’re walking down a city street,” Morin said. “In your home, you’re more yourself.”

When an app is designed to communicate so intimately with other people, scale can be a problem. “I read that the people you communicate with 90 percent of the time are the twenty most recent contacts in your address book,” said Jared Hecht, the co-founder of GroupMe, a group text-messaging app. That’s why GroupMe built its app on SMS — it’s phone-agnostic so even people without smartphones can use it.

Morin pointed to other private social networks like Nextdoor, for neighborhoods, and Pair, for couples. Companies like those, Path and GroupMe are creating a new kind of utility, he said. “We’re asking people to create a new context entirely,” compared to content-oriented public networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.

  1. Matthew’s on the warpath against features ! I wonder where that originates, it’s kind of funny :D Features are awesome. New features rule…. keep ‘em coming, I say !

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  2. My favorite private social network which allows easy group sharing and instant communication is http://www.grouptime.com

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