The original chat rooms: IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

Easy explanation of Internet Relay Chat

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was the starting point for products you use today.

Similar cloud-based products you might be familiar with are Discord, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Telegram. But IRC isn’t as fancy as these current chat day services.

Why was IRC created?

IRC was created as an alternative to the BBS (Bulletin Board System). It’s a basic way to chat with people in a centralized location online. The rooms are text-based. There are no pictures or embedded links (links to websites showing a preview of the site linked).

How does IRC work?

IRC is a server-based chat system. Meaning people connect to one specific DNS/IP address to log in to the server. Once you log in, you’re able to talk to people on the same server. Talking to people on a different server requires logging off the current server and logging into the other server.

IRC is command-based. You have to know commands to get logged in, find channels (chat rooms), message people, or change the topic of a channel. These commands make it a little difficult to get started. But there is a help command to understand what the commands do.

When you log in to a server, you’re required to create a nick (nickname). The nick is used to identify you. You can use anything you want as long as someone else on the same server is not using your nick.

Once you log in to the server, you type the list command and the server shows you a list of channels and their current topic. Some channels are invite-only.

Bots are used in the channels to send files, moderate discussion, kick people from channels or ban people from channels. There are some bots used for malicious attacks.

Is IRC still around?

IRC is still used today. But the number of users has declined. Its popularity dropped in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Active users for IRC have gradually declined since 2003. It’s used for a lot of open-source projects.

Should I start using IRC?

The openness of IRC makes you vulnerable to attack. A person who knows what they’re doing can get your IP address, and hack your computer unless you have proper security in place.

I don’t recommend IRC unless you know how to keep your home network safe from attack. IRC was built as a solution and is outdated compared to the safer and easier to use options available now.

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