IRC Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Qustions (FAQs) are just what the name says; a list or file of answers to common questions about a particular subject, usually asked by beginners. FAQs are an extremely valuable resource. They help you get up to speed quickly on a topic, without taking up other Internet users' time and resources. Almost all newsgroups, mailing lists, and other special interet groups maintain a FAQ file for new users.

Here, you will find answers to frequently asked questions about Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Check the list of questions to see if your question, or one like it, is among them. If not, use a search engine to track down the information. If you don't know how to use a search engine, click here.

What is IRC?

IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat". It was originally written by Jarkko Oikarinen ( in 1988. Since starting in Finland, it has been used in over 60 countries around the world. It was designed as a replacement for the "talk" program but has become much much more than that. IRC is a multi-user chat system, where people convene on "channels" (a virtual place, usually with a topic of conversation) to talk in groups, or privately. IRC is constantly evolving, so the way things to work one week may not be the way they work the next. Read the MOTD (message of the day) every time you use IRC to keep up on any new happenings or server updates.

IRC gained international fame during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where updates from around the world came accross the wire, and most irc users who were online at the time gathered on a single channel to hear these reports. IRC had similar uses during the coup against Boris Yeltsin in September 1993, where IRC users from Moscow were giving live reports about the unstable situation there.

How is IRC set up?

The user runs a "client" program which connects to the IRC network via another program called a "server". Servers exist to pass messages from user to user over the IRC network.

How do I get a client?

There are plenty of chat clients you can download for free, and links are provided below. The most popular two are mIRC and pIRCh. Pirch is probably the best (in my humble opinion), because it's just as easy to use as mIRC but also has many additional features. Most of those additional features are only interesting to advanced, longtime IRC users, but if you start with pIRCh you don't ever have to worry about switching.

What are good channels to try while using IRC?

#hottub and #initgame are almost always teeming with people. #hottub is meant to simulate a hot tub, and #initgame is a non-stop game of "inits" (initials). Just join and find out!

What if someone tells me to type something cryptic?

Never type anything anyone tells you to without knowing what it is. There is a problem with typing certain commands with some clients that give anyone immediate control of your client (and thus can gain access to your account).

For more IRC information go here.

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