Welcome to IRC

Whether you’ve been using IRC since the 80s or you’re just getting started with it today, welcome!

IRC was one of the first real-time chat systems on the internet. Since then there’s been a lot of others – ICQ, AIM, MSN, Skype, Discord. IRC’s the only one from way back when that’s stuck around in a decent way.

Let’s go through how IRC works, and how it compares to different chat systems.

How IRC Works

In IRC, you have a few basic concepts:


A user is just someone on IRC – like you!

A channel is a specific chatroom with one or more users – a place for them to chat together.

A network is a place where you can connect to, talk to other users and join channels.

Let’s explore these in some more detail.

On IRC, a channel is just a room where one or more people can chat together. Channels have a topic and a list of members – some of those members admins and some just regular members.

If you’ve used Discord before, you should be pretty familiar with the idea of a text channel. The IRC equivalent acts pretty similar.

One of the major differences between IRC and other chat systems is that on most chat programs (MSN, Skype, Discord, Slack), only one company can run the network. When you use Skype, you’re connecting to Microsoft’s Skype network and chatting through that. When you use Discord, you’re connecting to the Discord company’s network and chatting through servers owned by them.

When you’re using IRC, anyone’s able to run their own completely separate network for them, their friends, or just anyone else to chat on. For example, a rough estimate pegs there being around 50-200 thousand IRC networks on the internet. Likely run by a similar number of completely different people.

It’s a far cry from those other chat systems, and part of the fun of using IRC is choosing which networks to chat on!