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An acronym for Internet Relay Chat, IRC is a program that allows you to carry on “live” conversations with people all over the world by typing messages back and forth across the Internet.
You can talk in groups or in private with only one person. IRC consists of “channels,” that are usually devoted to specific topics. Anyone can create a “channel” and any message typed in a given channel is seen by all others in the channel, generally referred to as the IP address or IP number.
IRC usage has dropped substantially in recent years, primarily because many of the conversations that were held there can be more easily held on social networking sites or with an instant messaging app; however, IRC channels are still commonly used by a variety of interest groups. The open source software community, in particular, often uses IRC channels as a means of providing group-based support and feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I connect to IRC channels?
The first thing you will need to do is download an IRC client for your computer or mobile device. For PC, you can find IRC clients online or as an add-on to your web browser; for mobile devices, IRC clients are available from all of the major app stores. Some multi-network instant messaging clients also offer IRC support.
To find IRC channels, you can search for topics you’re interested in online, check out any of the IRC list websites (there are several that you can find with a simple Google search for “IRC list”), or search for channels from within your IRC client, using the /list command.
Do I need to know commands to use IRC?
While many IRC clients will let you navigate and join groups without knowing IRC commands (particularly mobile-based and multi-platform clients), some clients still require commands to connect to channels and chat with participants. Regardless, it can be very helpful to know some of the basic IRC commands in order to get the most out of your IRC experience. Check your IRC client for a list of available commands, or search for a client-specific list online.