Rumor: Apple in late-stage talks to buy Path social platform

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According to a report late Tuesday, Apple is on the verge of announcing an acquisition of social network and corresponding app Path, possibly in a bid to restart a branded platform after the failure of Ping.

As reported by Pando Daily, a source with knowledge of the matter claims an agreement between Apple and Path is "essentially a done deal." The publication cites one person currently working for Apple in unnamed engineering department.

Interestingly, the source says Apple is looking to keep Path intact following the rumored buyout, a tactic that strays from the company's usual M&A tactics. Save for the recent acquisition of Beats, Apple usually performs so-called "acquihires," or purchases made for talent, not a brand name. The publication speculates that Path may make its way into iOS Messages.

Path, which has been frequently featured in the iOS App Store, is not unlike a mobile-only version of Facebook. Users can share photos, videos, audio messages, and thoughts with their friends, who can reply with fine-grained emotions — friends can express shock at a post, for instance, or "love" rather than simply "liking" the content. In addition, Path users can simultaneously share "moments" with their other social networks, putting Path at the middle of their social sharing endeavors.

The company has also recently spun off its in-app messaging feature as a standalone app called Path Talk, which competes with "over the top" messenger apps like WhatsApp and Kik.

Pando Daily also points out that Path cofounder Dave Morin was seen sitting in the front row at Flint Center for Tuesday's iPhone 6 keynote. Apple saves those seats for high-ranking executives and special guests. For example, during the presentation, Jony Ive was seen sitting with design superstar and new Apple employee Marc Newson.

Pricing went unmentioned, but the struggling social networking firm's recent round of funding reportedly clocked in at a sub-$400 million valuation, much less than a rumored $500 million valuation sought by executives. Further, Path is not a high-ranking title in the iOS App Store and currently sits below the top-1,000 downloaded apps.

Aside from being one of the less popular social networking services, Path had a few missteps that drew scrutiny from governmental regulatory agencies and even Apple itself. In 2012, the firm was dinged for uploading users' address books without permission, claiming the automated action was meant to more easily find other friends using the app. The issue snowballed into a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation, which was ultimately settled for $800,000 in early 2013.

On the day Path's settlement, a researcher discover a flaw in the app's backend that geotagged photos uploaded by users. The problem was quickly patched, but shortly thereafter Path was again accused of unacceptable contacts handling techniques.