What is Internet Relay Chat?

© 2000 Walt Howe
(last updated June 22, 1998)

Internet Relay Chat is an Internet protocol that enables people to meet in conference groups (called channels) from all over the world. At any time, there are thousands of channels running simultaneously, and you can join an existing one or start one of your own. When IRC first started, you could list all the channels in session and look them over to see what you want to join. You still can, but it takes so long to list them all that it is hardly worth it. It is best to decide in advance what channel to join or to prearrange to meet in a particular channel.

IRC is wild and unregulated, and you will meet all kinds of people. Never give out passwords or credit card numbers or personal information on IRC! Because it is so huge and chaotic, many people look for quieter places to hold chats. Undernets have been created separate from IRC, and there are public chat rooms attached to many web sites and Internet providers that are open to the public. Most of the latter types do not use the IRC protocol, but use their own software. Try Delphi’s Chat Rooms.

Like other protocols, you can use command mode with shell accounts or providers with text modes like Delphi. Alternatively, if you run your own TCP/IP software with a SLIP, PPP, or network
account, you can run your own IRC software. Running software like mIRC for Windows is a lot easier to learn than to learn all the commands and variations of IRC in command mode. You can review the commands at any time by typing the command /HELP. There are extensive help files available at the mIRC
site, too.