The Palace (computer program)
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (June 2007)|
|Developer(s)||Time Warner Interactive, independent developers|
|Operating system||Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows|
|Type||Virtual Community, client|
The Palace (or Palace Chat, Chat Palace, Palace) is a computer program to access graphical chat room servers, called palaces, in which users may interact with one another using graphical avatars overlaid on a graphical backdrop. The software concept was originally created by Jim Bumgardner, and produced by Time Warner Interactive, in 1994, and was first opened to the public in November 1995.
While there is no longer any official support for the program, many Palace-based chat servers still exist on the Internet. Palace clients and servers are available for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows.
There is one major, unofficial community-based web site that still supports The Palace today: PalacePlanet; now, the other major unofficial portal, PalaceTools.com, has been permanently closed. PalaceTools used to be mostly a live Palace directory site with some links to additional resources. PalacePlanet has an active community forum, online manuals, a new user-based directory and a tutorial section for new users.
Concept and Design
The Palace has a flexible avatar system that allows users to combine small, partially transparent images to create a unique look for themselves. Once the member has created an avatar to represent herself or himself, the member can pick up various pieces of clothing or other items, such as hats, handbags, cans of soda, candy bars, bicycles, or hand tools. The Dollz that can be seen in many places around the Internet today originated in The Palace.
By default, users are represented by spherical smiley face emoticons, but can also wear bitmaps called props. User messages appear as chat bubbles above their avatar, similar to those seen in comic books. Each room in a palace is represented by a large image that serves as a backdrop for the users. By clicking on certain areas in a room called doors, users can travel either to different rooms in the same palace, another palace server, or even an address leading to a different service, such as Web sites and e-mail. In some rooms, users are allowed to paint on the backdrop using a simple suite of drawing tools similar to oekaki.
The Palace was created by Jim Bumgardner, and produced by Time Warner Interactive, in 1994. Bumgardner incorporated many features of Idaho, an in-house authoring tool he had previously developed for making multimedia CD-ROMs. One of the latter features of Idaho was IPTSCRAE, a Forth-like programming language. The name is a play on the word "script", in Pig Latin. One of the unique features of the Palace for its time, was that the server software was given away for free, and ran on consumer PCs, rather than being housed in a central location. This is one of the reasons why Palace servers are still running today.
From around 1997, artists began to use the Palace as a site for experimental live performance. Notably, the group Desktop Theatre staged interventions and performances in their own and public Palaces from 1997 until 2002. In 1997 they presented "waitingforgodot.com" at the Third Annual Digital Storytelling Festival, which took an interesting turn when another Palatian changed their name to Godot and arrived in the performance. Other artists working in The Palace include Avatar Body Collision (2002-2007).
Palace chat's popularity peaked around 1999-2000 when nu metal band Korn had their own palace chat room that fans could download from korn.com. Palace's popularity at this time could also be attributed to a palace which focused on the cartoon South Park, as well as the Sci Fi channel's Mothership palace. There was even a link to the South Park palace on the Comedy Central website at the time. http://web.archive.org/web/19991115203900/http://comedycentral.com/southpark/noflash/cmp/palace.shtml
The Palace was the subject of a number of sales between companies until 2001, when Open Text Corporation purchased the rights to the Palace software and technology as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The software is currently unsupported by Open Text or any of its previous owners, and many members of the community now consider the software abandonware and provide support for existing versions on unofficial web sites. The original thepalace.com domain was bought by a long time Palace user, and is now used as a directory for other sites.
Official Palace software development ceased when Communities.com declared bankruptcy, but at least four groups are working on Palace protocol compatible clients. All of these new clients support improved high-color avatars, larger room backgrounds (also in high-color), modern sound formats (such as MP3), and are designed for modern operating systems. As with many projects of this nature, there are some drawbacks to the new clients, such as not being fully compatible with older clients (because of the latter's limitations); and many users have chosen to remain with the older alternatives for as long as they are able to run them.
One of the first comprehensive psychological studies of avatar communities, conducted by John Suler, took place at the Palace. This collection of essays, entitled Life at the Palace, consisted of an analysis of Palace history, social relationships, "addiction," and deviance. Suler's work focussed on the unique aspects of interacting via avatars and in a graphical space.
- Linpal, an open source Linux client based on GTK+
- OpenPalace, an open source, Adobe Flash implementation by Brian McKelvey which has recently been gaining popularity and receiving much support and feedback from many Palace users.
- PalaceChat, created by Jameson Heesen (known in the community as PaVVn) which is now freeware and also supports Iptscrae scripting. Many new features such as displaying videos and custom, larger, full-color backgrounds within member-created rooms have been added since its creation.
- Phalanx, by Brainhouse Laboratories
Non-compatible Palace-like Clients
- iPalaces, also known simply as iP, contains updated and enhanced features in comparison to the original Palace client's, which are mostly(or similarly) implemented in newer Palace clients
- The Manor, written by former Palace lead developer. The Manor includes embedded Python for user and room scripting with an encrypted data stream. Supports importing Palace avatars. Both new incarnations of The Palace support larger room sizes and 32-bit color avatars.
- Voodoo Chat, a popular web-browser based avatar chat
- Worlize, a palace-like online virtual world utilising user-generated content
- OpenVerse, a palace-like, open-source, visual chat program written in TCL/Tk.