The Path to Dunbar’s Number and Your 150 Real “Friends”

dunbar circles The Path to Dunbars Number and Your 150 Real Friends

Dunbar's Circles

Path, a social network focused on sharing with a limited circle of close friends and family, was launched with much hype by Dave Morin, formerly of Facebook. Path allowed users only 50 friends. But last week the increased that number to 150, sometimes referred to as the Dunbar number, after Robert Dunbar, a sociologist who posited that 150 was the upper limit of meaningful social connections a single human could have.

“The problem with 50 is that it is annoying but not structurally useful,” said tech intellectual Clive Thompson, who has written extensively on Dunbar’s number. “When I first heard of path my thought was, don’t go with 50, go with 10 or 3, make it really interesting, like, this is a group for me to pay serious attention.”

Path CEO and Founder Mr. Morin explained the company’s rational on Quora, “We never stop exploring different ways to help you connect more deeply and share personal moments with close friends and family. Moving to 150, gives users control and still allows for a high quality network—highly noted anthropologist Robert Dunbar pinpointed this range of 50-150. Our goal is to continue to help users connect more deeply with the people they care about most: be it through experimenting with constraints, developing algorithms like FriendRank, or helping people share more personal information in new and unique ways.”

Ironically, the average Facebook user has only 120 friends. So Path, a service intended as a antidote to the social overload of Facebook, now offers users the chance to have more connections than the Facebook average.

“I appreciate what they’re trying to do, experimentation is key, especially in the social networking space,” says Mr. Thompson. “People love Twitter because it limits them to 140 characters. 50 turned out not to be a good guess in terms of a meaningful structure for social networking. Maybe 150, a number with a lot of history, really is the right framework for creating a very meaningful network.”