Paltalk adds Express to its Scene

Paltalk introduces a Web-based version of its popular downloadable client PaltalkScene, but it's still in beta and has a ways to go before it's ready for a full chat experience.

Popular video chat host and program publisher Paltalk on Tuesday introduces a beta of a complementary program to PaltalkScene. The new application, Paltalk Express, transfers the entire video chat apparatus to the Web and bolsters it with the kind of Web 2.0 bells and whistles that should make its appeal instantly obvious.

Paltalk Express looks and feels like a standard chat program, but it's all in your browser. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Based in Flash, Paltalk Express supports a decent range of features, even in the beta stage. Once logged in, the interface has the look and feel of a standard program, with a menu bar on the top left, your user status below that, and tabbed chat room navigation taking up the majority of the screen real estate.

Users can mark frequently visited chat rooms and frequently chatted friends as Favorites and Pals, respectively. This is practically a must-have feature for an video chat community that Paltalk's president, Joel Smernoff, claims has more than 4 million users and more than 5,000 chat rooms.

Chat features within the program are available to all, but to entice users to buy a subscription to Paltalk Express, Webcam viewing is restricted to paying customers except for group chats. So, if you're eager to participate in the daily live stream of the radio show Opie and Anthony, which Paltalk streams into a chat room for every broadcast, you don't have to subscribe.

Paltalk Express beta currently only supports text chat, but plans for much more. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Other features include an effective search function, multiple status settings so nobody can see when you're logged in, support for several dozen languages, and a left-nav "Pal Bar" that helps you keep track of your "pals" and when they're logged in.

Some of the more interesting or simply more useful features are nonfunctional in the beta. These include the ability to embed a vidcast on your Web page or blog, interoperability with AIM, Yahoo, and ICQ, viewing other people's Webcams, and--disappointingly--even the ability to engage in voice chat with other users.

Assuming Paltalk Express doesn't take too long to move out of beta, these extra features will make it a serious Web-based video chat and casual conferencing option.