File sharing and real-time communication are critical in unifying today’s workforce. From live chats to video conferencing, there is a lot that teams can do over the internet, across multiple locations around the globe, thanks to the many remote communication tools available today. In the early internet days, things were a bit different.

The program, which gave birth to the modern extremely popular chat movement was the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) of Jarkko Oikarinen. Created in 1988, IRC has played a significant role in online communication and inspired many communication platforms in the market today. Online communities relied on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to communicate and stay updated.

Jarkko Oikarinen
Jarkko Oikarinen

7 Facts About Internet Relay Chat

Here are quick facts about IRC:

  • IRC was received well in the market. In November 1988, about four months after its invention, IRC had spread across the Internet, and in the middle of 1989, there were some 40 servers worldwide.
  • IRC became well known to the general public around the world in 1991 when its use skyrocketed as a lot of users logged on to get up-to-date information on Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait through a functional IRC link into the country that stayed operational for a week after radio and television broadcasts were cut off.
  • The Internet Relay Chat Protocol was defined in May 1993 in RFC 1459 of Jarkko Oikarinen and Darren Reed.
  • As of the end of 2009, the top 100 IRC networks served more than half a million users at a time, with hundreds of thousands of channels operating on a total of some 1500 servers worldwide.
  • IRC has significantly evolved since its inception, and the new server software has added dozens of features such as proxy detection, encryption, connection protocols, and more.
  • Between 2003 and 2012, IRC witnessed a 60% decline in users, with the majority moving to newer social media platforms.
  • IRC became well known to the general public around the world in 1991, when its use skyrocketed as a lot of users logged on to get up-to-date information on Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, through a functional IRC link into the country that stayed operational for a week after radio and television broadcasts were cut off.

What is IRC: Explained

IRC is a text-based chat platform designed for group communication on channels and also one on one communication through private chats as well as file sharing. It is a protocol means of sending and receiving data via interconnected servers. When Jarkko “WiZ” Oikarinen created IRC in 1988, he aimed at improving internal communication within Oulu’s network.

This project was a great success and has laid a foundation on which modern communication tools are built. A few months after its invention, IRC had spread across the internet, rising to 40 servers around the world by mid-1989. In 1991, IRC became well known to the world after it reported Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait during a media blackout.

IRC networks have undergone various software implementations, from one network to another, each network implementing its policies and standards in its code bases. Since 2003, the number of users has been declining steadily, losing up to 60% of its users. This could be attributed to the emergence of new communication platforms with advanced features such as audio and video calls, enhanced security, and a reliable and intuitive way to archive and retrieve information.

IRC is similar to text messaging only in that it is designed for large groups instead of one-on-one communication. Originally, IRC was a plain-text protocol, but that has changed in subsequent implementations.

How to use IRC

IRC infrastructure has four essential components through which users interact: Servers, Networks, Channels, and Clients. The network is a web of servers where users connect through clients—text-based applications designed to user channel interactions. It is important to note that there are many different IRC networks, each with other channels. To get started, you will need to know the server and the channel your community uses. Here’s a tutorial on how to use IRC:

  • The first step will be to download a chat client.
  • Then open the chat client and enter the network name and channel that the organization specifies on their homepage.
  • With the network name and channel in place, set up your IRC nickname – it can be initials or numbers or both, anything you want it to be.
  • Congratulations, you are now on the channel — you can now participate in conversations that interest you, respond to questions or add an idea. Learn by watching how others are “chatting” with one another. And, of course, feel free to ask questions.

It is important to note that IRC is designed for short communications. Most messages are 20 words or less, and communication is usually very quick and informal.

The Difference Between IRC and Telegram

Both IRC and Telegram are similar in many ways. However, as with many other communication software, each has distinct features which differentiate one from the other.

  • Being an open protocol, IRC is robust and stable, making it suitable for both open-source and commercial projects. On the other hand, telegram is not fully open source. Although the API and protocol are free, the back-end software is not open.
  • IRC is versatile. It offers choice in clients and the scripts they run and in servers and their features. With IRC, you can even set up your servers. Telegram does not have that versatility. You can only use a telegram with a phone number.
  • Unlike Telegram, IRC is complex and not user-friendly.
  • IRC has poor media support, meaning sending anything other than a text is not easy. Telegram supports media messaging, Gifs, videos, images, geolocations, and executable documents.

IRC Release History

During the summer of 1988, Jarkko Oikarinen (born 16 August 1967, in Kuusamo, Finland), a 2nd-year student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Oulu, Finland, was working at the University Department of Information Processing Science, where he administered the department’s Sun Unix server “tolsun.Oulu.fi”, running on a public access BBS (bulletin board system) called OuluBox.

The work with server administration didn’t take all his time, so Jarkko started doing a communication program, which was meant to make OuluBox a little more usable. Partly inspired by Jyrki Kuoppala’s “rmsg” program for sending messages to people on other machines, and partly by Bitnet Relay Chat, Oikarinen decided to improve the existing multi-user chat program on OuluBox called MultiUser Talk (MUT) (which had a bad habit of not working correctly), itself based on the basic talk program then available on Unix computers. He called the resulting program IRC (for Internet Relay Chat) and first deployed it at the end of August 1988.

The Internet Relay Chat Protocol was defined in May, 1993, in RFC 1459 of Jarkko Oikarinen and Darren Reed. It was mainly described as a protocol for group communication in discussion forums, called channels. It also allows one-to-one communication via private message and chat and data transfers via Direct Client-to-Client.

In the 1990s, IRC gained many users until 2003, when users started declining as new chat platforms emerged. As of the end of 2009, the top 100 IRC networks served more than half a million users at a time, with hundreds of thousands of channels, operating on a total of some 1500 servers worldwide.

IRC: History, Origin, and More FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is IRC?

IRC is a text-based chat platform designed for group communication in channels and also one on one communication through private chats as well as file sharing.

When was IRC created?

IRC was released at the end of August 1988

Who created IRC

IRC was created by Jarkko Oikarinen

Does internet relay chat still exist?

IRC still exists today, although its networks have undergone various software implementations from one network to the other, each network implementing its policies and standards in its code bases.

Why was IRC invented?

IRC was invented to provide a frictionless communication channel where people can talk, share ideas, and brainstorm projects across different geographical locations.

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  • Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Relay_Chat
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