What is Internet Relay Chat (IRC)?

Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, is a means of chatting online in real-time through a client application like mIRC, through which data is sent via connected servers to various computers which are, in turn, connected to those servers all across the world.
Techspirited Staff
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) allows people across the world to chat in real-time with each other in virtual rooms over the Internet. In other words, IRC is an online communication system through which files and text can be transferred. It is a common protocol that is run on numerous servers which can be accessed by various kinds of clients. Some of the most popularly used clients are irc2 for operating systems that are UNIX-based, IRC1e for the Mac operating system, and mIRC for Windows.
Internet Relay Chat permits anybody with a server to create their chat rooms as well as invite other people to participate by joining in. It is an effective way of creating chat rooms that are decentralized which provide users a clean, ad-free interface-based means of chatting.
IRC is usually given credit for originating the online chat movement which is so popular today. Considered the most widely used system of chatting, IRC was created by Jarkko Oikarinen, a grad student, at the University of Oulu in Finland. In 1988, while Oikarinen worked at the Department of Information Processing Science, he was inspired by the 'rmsg' program created by Jyrki Kuoppala as well as another system known as the Bitnet Relay Chat. Basing his chat program on MUT, or MultiUser Talk, IRC was released by Oikarinen in the month of August in 1988, and it soon spread all across Finland as well as Scandinavia.
IRC soon found its way to North America via MIT, becoming particularly popular in 1991, during the Gulf War, when high demand was created for immediate information. Nowadays, IRC is used by millions of people both for professional as well as personal purposes.
IRC networks form a sort of a superstructure wherein IRC servers link together to form bigger networks in order to share channels, which, in turn, enables a number of individual servers to form a combination, thus increasing the number of virtual chat rooms as well as the people who use them.
Hence, each server in a particular network gets connected to other servers that are already part of the network, and shares all the traffic they contain with the other server, resulting in all the servers that are connected having all the messages that are created in all the chat rooms.
Thus, these interconnected networks create an illusion to users, who are actually connected to individual servers, that they have logged into a single, large server. Although it is difficult to detect, when the networks are busy, there may actually be a few seconds delay in the messages that you get from a user who is logged onto a different server that is located far away.
At any point of time, there will be a number of major IRC networks running online comprising numerous servers. The biggest networks consist of scores of servers that support thousands of users at any given moment. Some of the biggest networks are: Undernet; QuakeNet; EFnet; DALnet; and IRCnet. And some of the popular, but smaller sized networks are: Gamesnet; Newsnet; GameSurge; Webchat; and Starlink-irc.
IRC servers are partitioned into channels which are prefixed by the # symbol. For instance, a channel which has dogs as its topic would be assigned the name #dogs. In order to specify a virtual location where you would want to meet and chat on IRC, you will have to provide both the name of a server as well as that of a channel.
IRC networks usually have chat programs known as bots, which perform various tasks in channels such as registering the users of a channel, creating bans that are applied automatically, help in defining words, post clippings of news, and even assist investors to trade their currencies or stocks.
If you want to be a part of this worldwide chatting phenomenon via IRC, you can either join a chat room that already exists or initiate a channel or chat group. There are certain predetermined rules, known as protocols, for seeking out chat groups that are already existent along with the members that use them. Contingent upon the conventions in various networks, you can reserve nicknames by registering them or use one just for a particular chatting session. Several channels, however, encourage the registration of nicknames that can always be used and even provide space where you can give your picture, personal profile, as well as the facility to provide a link to your home page.