In recent years, video chat has come a long way. Nearly everyone regularly chats with friends and family using video chat apps like Skype, social and random chat sites like the old Seesmic and Chatroulette have taken the Web by storm, and most recently a new social chat startup, SocialEyes, has entered the picture, tapping Facebook’s social graph to let users chat with their friends and meet new people. I had the opportunity to talk with Jason Katz, CEO of online video chat service Paltalk about the implications of platforms like SocialEyes and what the future holds in store for online video chat. Read on to find out what Jason had to say.
Before we get to my interview with Jason, I’ll just give a brief overview of Paltalk, for those of you that aren’t familiar with it. Paltalk is an online video chat technology that has been around since 1998. It is the only video chat technology with the ability to scale for any size chat room, being great for friends that want to chat one-on-one, or groups that want to chat thousands-to-thousands, letting you access all your chat buddies from MSN, AIM, Facebook, GTalk and more.
I was curious what Jason thought about SocialEyes and the effect services like SocialEyes would have on the Skypes and Paltalks of the world. As video chat becomes more social and Facebook hints at offering video chat between friends in the near future, I wondered if he thought that the more traditional video chatting sites would fall by the wayside. After all, more and more people are already using Facebook as their main online chatting means, and some people even use Facebook messaging as an email replacement. Could social video chat with Facebook’s social graph replace these other services?
I asked Jason, how do platforms like SocialEyes differ from Skype and Paltalk? He told me, “SocialEyes seems to thrive only as an add-on to Facebook, an established social networks. Paltalk and Skype have both been able to attract users independently. When users join Paltalk they can browse and join thousands of video chat rooms, video chat within a group or one-on-one with a friend or family member. The variety of chat experiences open to our users is missing from apps like SocialEyes.”
Jason told me, “The media speculates that Facebook will most likely utilize Skype for its video chat play. This collaboration may drive more users to Skype. Skype, however, does not currently support more than 10 people video chatting simultaneously.” For this reason, Jason does not expect that Paltalk will be “adversely affected by a Facebook/Skype video chat solution.” It seems that Facebook video chat may be popular for one-on-one chat between friends, should it launch, but users will still have to turn to services like Paltalk for larger video chat groups.
Finally, I asked Jason what he thinks the future holds for live video chatting. He told me, “With the ubiquity of high speed broadband connections, and low cost integrated webcams in tablets and smart phones, consumers are finding it easier to connect with voice and video. Video chatting and calling is becoming a bigger presence in people’s lives for play and work.”
How do you think video chat will change and grow over upcoming months and years as it becomes more integrated into social sites? How do you think the more traditional video chat platforms will hold up?