|Initial release||June 1998|
|Stable release||Version 10.3 Build 498 / April 14, 2013|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android, BlackBerry|
Paltalk is an instant messaging service that enables users to communicate via internet chat, voice and video chat. It offers chat rooms and the ability for users to create their own public virtual chat room. Paltalk is available in three formats: Paltalk Messenger, the regular version most users use, Paltalk Mobile, the phone version, and Paltalk Express. It is proprietary software. While basic services are free of charge and basic software is free to download, fee-based memberships and payable upgrades to more capable paid versions are offered by AVM Software, the creators of Paltalk.
SoftwarePaltalk Messenger is a downloadable software application for a Microsoft Windows based computer. Paltalk Mobile is a mobile client for the BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android. PaltalkExpress is a free web based Adobe Flash and Java application which can be accessed using any Internet browser. It has also been featured as one of the most popular communication apps in the Google Chrome Web Store. Paltalk Express delivers no PC-to-phone calls and no interoperability with IM services.
Paltalk has a widget called Paltalk Video Chat Widget that was released on May 12, 2009. It allows website visitors to view Paltalk rooms, both text and video. Users can now text-chat directly from the widget.
Paltalk and HearMe are owned by AVM Software, which is a privately held company founded in 1998 and based in New York City, NY. Paltalk became popular after Firetalk, an earlier voice and music chat program which became unable to maintain operation due to a lack of adequate funding.
HearMe was acquired by Paltalk in 2001 and re-launched as a product in 2007. HearMe provides VoIP, Desktop Sharing and video conferencing in a scalable manner, allowing up to 2,000 simultaneous participants in each meeting "room".
Paltalk produces a number of original programs for its PaltalkScene platform: News Talk Online hosted by former CNN reporter Gary Baumgarten, America Tonight with Kate Delaney that is also syndicated to 80 stations around the United States, The Jack Alexander Experiment, Hollywood Now with Joanne Colan and MusicScene. The hosted shows feature celebrities, politicians, musicians and entertainers who are able to interact live with the viewers through video chat. The room formerly known as PNN (Paltalk News Network) has been changed to U.S. Election Central 2012 and is now open 24/7 for chatters to discuss the American elections in a safe environment with no bad language or insults. Paltalk is featured by Israel National Radio as a News Talk Online Instant messaging platform as of March 2012.
Paltalk has been widely criticized for use of various spyware programs, although the company denies it. However, Paltalk uses an intrusive system whereby codes are implanted onto the user's registry, codes are also read to identify each user by a unique identifier from the Microsoft operating system for use in room bans. These issues have raised concerns as to the anonymity of users. Paltalk also uses deceiving ads at the bottom of its message box, making it appear as if the user has received a message, but it triggers a popup ad. Many users have reported slow PCs upon use of Paltalk and page redirects when using Paltalk.
In June 2013, it was revealed that Paltalk was targeted by the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program.
Kevin WhitrickIn 2007, Kevin Whitrick hanged himself live on one of Paltalk's chatrooms. The chatroom he was using at the time was one of the popular 'insult chatrooms' where users insult each other. While Whitrick threatened to kill himself, some of the users pleaded for him to stop while others encouraged him; some of whom would later claim they thought it was a hoax when the UK's Home Office launched an investigation into one hundred of the users involved in the chat room.
Use as an educational aidPaltalk has been used as a medium for teaching English by offering password-protected chatrooms of up to three users. Educators have praised both the sufficient audio quality to teach language and the 'Request Talk' button which allows teachers control over who is speaking at any one time, much like a conventional classroom. Parents and teachers are warned however, not to allow unsupervised access to Paltalk due to some of its chatrooms being "dominated by sexual, obscene or defamatory communication" and that although the software has Parental Control options, these do not extend to chat room limitations, do not protect against online predators and are easily circumvented by reinstalling the software.
Patent lawsuitsPaltalk filed a series of patent lawsuits in 2009 against video game developers claiming they were infringing US patents 5,822,523 and 6,226,686 "Server-group messaging system for interactive applications." Paltalk first brought a case against Microsoft, claiming Halo and Xbox Live violated its patent rights, and settled in an out of court settlement for $90 million USD in 2009, despite Microsoft lawyers contending that Paltalk bought the patent for under $200,000.
Paltalk then moved on to Sony, Activision Blizzard, NCsoft, Jagex and Turbine, Inc., claiming that these companies are also violating Paltalk's patents whose damages range in the "tens of millions of dollars". This has sparked some controversy in the video gamer community as some of these companies are known for selling games for under USD $20, and Jagex provides a free version of RuneScape. In late 2010, Jagex successfully defended against such a lawsuit. Jagex's CEO made the following statement "It is exceedingly unfortunate that the U.S. legal system can force a company with a sole presence in Cambridge, UK to incur a seven-digit expense and waste over a year of management time on a case with absolutely no merit," he went on to say that Jagex "will not hesitate to vigorously defend our position against any patent trolls who bring lawsuits against us in the future."