About IRC

IRC is the magical land of chat, or at least it had the potential to be. People all around the world can chat about countless topics in real time.

Introduction to IRC

A channel in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is what you might call a chat room. People who are in the channel see each other's messages and can thereby carry on a live discussion. An IRC server can have thousands of separate channels with different types of discussion. Channels usually start with a '#' symbol.

Users connect to IRC with an IRC client software. There are many choices, and I won't mention any here, so do some research to find the one you like best. You could even use a web interface in many cases.


When something goes wrong in an IRC client, such as when you get disconnected or use bad syntax for a command, the relevant error message might show up in the server tab instead of the current tab.

Conversations on IRC that might seem private could be monitored or logged by the server operators. Pay attention to the rules of the network and server, and never do anything illegal on IRC. Networks like Undernet are proud of working with law enforcement to ruin users' lives.

Since the 1990s, many people have been entrapped on IRC when they think they're chatting privately with someone about having consensual sex but are actually talking to an undercover law enforcement officer. Others have been incarcerated for the crime of chatting when they shared pictures of intimacy deemed unacceptable by genocidal governments.

Getting a reply could take 15 minutes or more even in channel with a good number of users because most are doing other things outside the channel and can't immediately reply to visitors. Some people also leave clients running while they're away or asleep. If you're asking a question, some people won't reply if they don't have an answer to your question. So when on IRC, don't be impatient or feel like you're being ignored if no one responds immediately. Also, some channels are friendlier and busier than others.

Copyright ©2020 Ron Spain


Most modern IRC clients provide a nice GUI (graphical user interface), but it can still be good to know some actual IRC commands.

/nick hooligan
Changes your name to hooligan.

/join #chan
Causes you to join a channel called #chan if possible.

/part #chan
For when you want to leave a channel without disconnecting from the IRC network. You may probably omit the channel in most clients, but you need that if you want to add a reason, as in the following.

/part #chan Back later
To leave a channel and include a message saying you'll be back later. If you don't specify a message as shown, your client might use a default part message that can be changed in the application's preferences/settings.

Disconnect from the irc server/network.

/msg bob Hey bob what's up?
To send a private message to bob. Some clients may open a new tab for the conversation so you don't have to keep using the command.

/away I've gone fishing.
Marks you as away and sets your away message.

Marks you as not away.

This command lists the users in a room. I think most clients show users in a side pane, but if yours doesn't, this command could be useful.

/whois bob
This command shows more information about a user, such as which channels they're in.

Op Commands

One cool thing about IRC is that you can create your own channel about almost anything. Just /join #booyah or whatever and it will be created, and you're the boss of the channel. You'll probably want some friends to help you, and you'll probably want to do some sort of promoting of the channel to get more visitors. Many channels on IRC also have a web page with rules or other information.

The following are commands that are useful for those running a channel.

/topic Welcome to my chat.
Sets the topic for your channel.

/op bob
Gives op status to bob.

Causes you to part and join quickly in some clients, useful to regain op status in an otherwise empty channel.

/kick bob
Kicks bob out of the channel, who could rejoin immediately unless you /ban, but kicking is often enough.

/ban bob
Sets a ban on bob. Sometimes a more complicated command such as the following may be needed.

/ban *!*@
Bans any nick with the given IP address. In cases of shared internet addresses, this could inadvertantly ban multiple users.

/mode #channel +l 8
Sets the channel limit to 8. Some channels use such limits to prevent malicious flooding by large numbers of bots. The limit should be just high enough to allow only a few users to join at once.