A quick introduction to IRC (for those who don’t already use it!)

In Hacking, Internet, Uncategorized on August 10, 2006 at 10:33 am

Quite recently, I have been introduced to Internet Relay Chat (IRC for short), which I have found to be a great way of chatting online to people all over the world.

Of course, many of you reading this post will already be familiar with IRC, but for those of you who are uninitiated, here is a brief guide, including links to IRC clients for different operating systems.

What is IRC?

IRC is the equivilent of CB radio operating over the Internet. It is in many ways similar to MSN Messenger or online chat rooms, with a few added features, such as the ability to transfer files and connect to users all over the world. It doesn’t matter which particular program you use to access IRC; all can connect to the same chat networks (channels).

During the Gulf war in 1991, and the Moscow coup in 1993, IRC users were able to get real time reports on the situstions in spite of a media blackout, which helped IRC gain international fame and usage.

People use IRC for many different reasons: it is one of the easiest methods for groups to have online discussions, for families to communicate and to meet new people to chat with on lonely nights.

Using IRC

To begin using IRC, you will need to download and install an IRC client for your operating system (see below for some suggestions).

You will then need to log on to an IRC server (your chosen program should have instructions for this) and choose a nickname. Choose your nickname wisely, as this will become your “identity” on IRC: people will look out for you, and may even search for you to chat with. (Note: if you don’t want to be hit on too much, it is wise not to choose a girly name!)

Once you are connected to an IRC server, you will want to find a channel to chat on. Different servers may have different channels open and available; often you may find a server has hundreds of channels available at any one time. Your IRC program may have menus displaying the various channels available to you. Alternatively, you can use the command “/list” (without the speech marks!) to have a list of channels appear in the window.

To join a channel, you should use the command “/join #channel” where #channel is the name of the channel you wish to join (eg: #chat). All channels begin with a # (eg: #chat, #newbies). To leave a channel, you should type “/leave #channel” (eg: /leave #chat)

Channel names generally reflect the nature of the conversation, though each channel can have a “topic” which may be changed at any time.The topic is set by the operator of the channel. Many people can participate similtaneously on a channel, so it is an ideal medium for online meetings and group discussions.

If you would like to have a private conversation with someone, you can use the command “/msg [nickname]” where the [nickname] is the name of the person you wish to be private with. This will open a new window so that you and your chosen correspondent can chat privately without interference.

You can also use the command “/notify” to discover when a particular user is on IRC, or “/invite” to ask someone to join a private conversation.

A few more useful commands

  • /who #chat Gives some information on users in the channel, #chat
  • /me says hi to everyone This will display “[your nickname] says hi to everyone”
  • /whois thisuser This will give you some information about “thisuser.”
  • /nick mynewname This changes your nickname to “mynewname”
  • /help This works on many clients and will provide some useful help for newbies.
  • /quit bye! Using this command, you quit IRC completely with a parting comment. Others will see “Signoff [yournickname] (bye!)”

IRC client downloads

Useful links

  • IRC help homepage
  • A guide to channel Netiquette
  • IRC Beginners
  • IRC Introduction
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