PalTalk to offer massive multiperson video chat for social networks

The video chat company PalTalk will go live on Monday with a new social networking service designed to be a proof of concept for the inclusion of video chat in social networks. PalTalk already has a thriving business in powering huge video chat rooms but the company believes their technology is the next logical step to create what they call Social Networking 3.0. If the first iteration was basic networking, 2.0 was layering richer self expression on the networks and 3.0 is real time video communication, they say. Makes sense to me.

PalTalk operates through a Windows desktop client and has already proven itself very scalable. It uses GAIM to create a consolidated buddy list across AIM, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ. The company says that its 4 million users often have 5,000 chat rooms open at any given time. The largest room they’ve had open at once included 3,000 people. Cringe-radio stars Opie and Anthony use PalTalk for their chat room and regularly interact with between 1 and 2 thousand people at the same time. I asked the people behind PalTalk how that would be logistically feasible and they said there was a lot of hand-raising going on.

Monday’s launch of the social networking system, called People 2.0, will demonstrate the usefulness and feasibility of video chat in social networking, the company hopes. The technology will then be licensed anywhere that groups of people gather online. PalTalk’s technology is currently free to download, with a paid upgrade available but no prices or service level comparison easily discoverable.

The fact that there is no Mac version of PalTalk is a real shame and the company says that is one of their most frequent requests. The particular social networking implementation unveiled Monday is likely to be unimportant in its other features and details, but the company did tell me they were interested in pursuing open identity standards – for whatever that’s worth.

If social networking is really about more than just contacts between individuals and if people do want to connect in real time with a community of interest – then group video chat makes sense to me. Text chat in the social networking world is so anemic right now that I can imagine video chat setting the space on fire. Will people download desktop clients to access the function? Probably. Will they pay for it? Maybe, but licensees may offer it for free as well.