Daum Kakao hopes social network Path will lead to international expansion

The South Korean developer of the KakaoTalk messaging app was attracted by Path's strong presence in Southeast Asia

Path and Path talk logos

Path and Path talk logos

Social network Path will soon be under new ownership.

The privacy-focused service found few friends in its native San Francisco, notching up just 10 million regular users in five years of existence, most of them in Southeast Asia.

That geographical focus, though, has caught the attention of Daum Kakao Communications, the South Korean company behind the popular instant messaging platform KakaoTalk, which sees Path as the perfect way for it to expand internationally.

Social networking services need to reach a critical mass of users to survive in a community. Some become global successes, but others succeed only regionally. Google's Orkut found that mass only in Brazil before closing last September, while Path found success in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, where it is one of the top three social networking services, according to Daum Kakao.

Dave Morin launched Path in 2010 as a privacy-friendly alternative to Facebook, his former employer. Path was designed to give users a private environment to share photos and messages within limited circles of friends and family. It also shows users who of their friends and family has seen a post. Privacy turned out not to be that much of an attraction, though: Five years later, Path has less than 1 percent of Facebook's user base of 1.44 billion monthly active users.

Daum Kakao will buy the Path social network and Path Talk, a messaging app launched in 2014, for an undisclosed fee. The remaining parent company Path Inc. will continue to operate the selfie GIF making app Kong.

Path users should not expect much change after the acquisition, as nearly everything about Path and Path Talk will remain as is, Path said in a blog post.

Daum Kakao said it wants to improve Path's service quality using its experience of operating services like KakaoTalk, the company's chat app, which supports 15 languages and in June last year had over 150 million users worldwide.

The acquisition is the kick-off of Daum Kakao's international push. The company plans to expand and said it will explore investment and partnership opportunities around the world, along with more acquisitions.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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