10 December 2008

What is an IRC network

What is IRC?

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. It is a means of instant communication over the internet, such as instant messaging services (ie, MSN, Yahoo and ICQ), except that IRC can support an unlimited amount of anonymous or other users.

It was invented in 1988 and ran on small University servers with occasionally more than 10 users. It was based on usenet but in realtime. Users could send messages instantly to a server for all to read and reply to. But the history of IRC is unimportant.

What is an IRC network?

An IRC network is a collection of IRC servers, they act as one large server hosting many people in different locations. Each server is connected to the other so that IRC 'channels' or rooms are the same on each server, so person A on server A can talk to person B on server B, if you understand. Then benefits of multi server networks is that as well as allowing more users and speed in the event of a server crash everything should still run as normal. Once again, this is not important.

How do I connect to an IRC network?

To start with you will need some form of client. The client software comunicates with the IRC servers to send information back and forth. The most popular clients you will find are Java Applets and third party clients, such as mIRC.

Java Applets

These are very basic and lightweight. A typical java client will have a main message window a user list and a send message test box. Java clients are so lightweight as they are meant to be run directly off the internet, as quick as possible. Some java clients have more advanced options such as sound, emoticon pictures. Java applets are normally insecure, connect to only one server and with limited features so aren't the choice of the more l33t haxx0r5.

Java users:

Clicking on chat will take you to another page. Click on the "Chat" button and a windowed applet will appear.

The applet will load and take you to #MoTT'sDirtyMind, you will need to type: /msg NickServ Identify the replace your password with the one you chose when/if you registered your IRC nick.

If you don't like your name or forgot your password, type /nick .

Once your name is all sorted out and you are connected you will be forcefully thrown into #MoTT'sDirtyMind.

There are three main windows, the channel window (where people's text is output, this is more or less central), the user list (lists users in chat, on the right) and the text bar (which is below the channel and user windows). Just click on the text bar and type away, press enter to send text.

Next to the text box on the left are a load of colours and some letters (B, R, U and N). Clicking on the colours will change your text colour, clicking on a letter will give you bold text, underlined text, reverse your text's colours or return your text to normal.

Underneath these are two dropdown menus, actions and commands. Commands isn't important for the casual IRC user, but just to let you know, they give ou quick access to services such as NickServ. The actions menu performs automated /me options. Clicking on a users name then choosing an action will produce something such as:

* MoTT runs over rohitab lightly in a 4x4

Third Party Clients

These are permanent applications that allow connections to many servers quickly, easily, efficiently with many options and security. Other benefits of these applications are the use of proxy servers, multiple server connections, bots and functionality. The most common software for IRC browsing is mIRC by Khaled Mardam-Bey http://www.mirc.com

Most java applets are predefined for connection to specific servers, so there is little that can be said, simply choose a username and click connect.

mIRC users:

IRC applications however normally come with a list of proxy servers and allow the addition of extra servers. You should read your application's help guide for information on connecting and adding a server, I will however run through mIRC as this is the most popular:

1) When you run mIRC you will be greeted with a popup advertising mIRC, ignore this and click the X . The mIRC options, connections tab will be opened.

2) Before going anywhere, fill in the name, e-mail, nickname and alternative nickname forms. These details do not need to be correct.

3) Next choose your server from the second, larger dropdown box, if your server isn't there simply click Add. You will now have to fill out a form for the new server, choose a description/name for listing in the dropdown box, a server address and a port. Unless you are told otherwise by the server owner, there is no need to fill the group and password boxes in. Here is an example:

Description: IRChat
IRC Server: chat.irchat.tv
Port(s): 6666,6667

4) Now all you need to do is click OK then connect and you will be logged on. If however you want to connect to 2 or more servers at once, you must select the small 'New Server Window' option, this will connect to the server but keep your previous connections alive and running.

5) If your nick name is registered (more about this later) you will need to type: /msg NickServ Identify the replace your password with the one you chose when you registered your IRC nick.

If you don't like your name or forgot your password, type /nick .

6) Type /j #MoTT'sDirtyMind into any window and you will be taken there.

Registering your nickname

This is the same for both mIRC and the applet. It will stop others from using your nickname, simply type: /msg nickserv and it will register your current name.

What Can I Do On IRC?

Logging on is the easy bit IRC nearly has it's own language (in fact, mIRC does have it's own language, which I will discuss later). The following commands should be compatible anywhere on IRC:

Basic Functions


This will change you nick to whatever follows /nick for example: /nick MoTT_Rules would change your nick to 'MoTT_Rules' (NOTE: You are only allowed one word for your nick, therefore: /nick MoTT Rules would change your nick to 'MoTT'.


Join's the specified channel: /join #rohitab would join channel rohitab (NOTE: Channel names must be prefixxed with a #). This command opens a new chat window (apart from on a few java clients).


Leaves channel, closing the channel window, useage: /part #rohitab.


Chatting is easy, when you are in a channel simply talk into your command box, this will just be a small text box, pressing enter will send the command. If you do not prefix commands with a forwardslash (/) IRC will interpret it as text and send it to your current channel.
Different chatting commands are:


Sends a message to the specified user wherever they are on IRC (be it in channel or otherwise). For example, saying : /msg Manitou Hello World! would make a personal message popup in front of me containing the words 'Hello World'


Would send a message to the channel specified. For example, saying: /MSG #ROHITAB Hello World would cause the text 'Hello World' to be entered into channel rohitab (NOTE: the channel name must be prefixxed with a #).


This is an action, sometimes used as /action . '/ME slaps rohitab with a trout' would produce the following (if your name was Manitou): *Manitou slaps rohitab with a trout.

Advanced/Moderators Options

There are two types of police forces on IRC networks, moderators and ops. IRCOPS are always online and have moderator powers all over a network, it's rumoured they get paid...pretty well considering they only have to be online. Moderators are users appointed by channel founders to watch and for some reason moderate channels.
Moderators get extra IRCOP privelages (in their specified channels), these privelages are:

op/deop - change the moderator status of another user
voice/devoice - give or take users voice (voice allows users to talk when moderation is enabled, useful against spammers)
kick - kick a user from the channel
ban - ban a user temporarily or permanently from a channel

Bots are normally used in the moderation of a channel, they are server side and help manage bans and kicks. Bots normally include extra commands, but as each bot will be different I won't go into it. I will, however, point out that most bots will carry out a command if preceded with a ! so if you said: !kick Manitou and you were a channel moderator then Manitou (me) would be kicked.

The basic moderator commands for IRC are easy to use, as this you should have a better understand, I will not add any comments:

Opping a user: /mode <#channel> +o

Deopping a user: /mode <#channel> -o

Voicing a user: /mode <#channel> +v

Devoicing a user: /mode <#channel> -v

Kicking a user: /kick <#channel> (NOTE: if no channel is given, it will accept the command to the active channel).

Kicking a user with a reason: /kick <#channel> Any text that follows he username in a kick will be used as a reason.

Banning a user: /mode <#channel> +b

Bots allow timed bans and exceptions.

For mIRC users all of these commands are available by right clicking on a users name in the user list.

If you want to know more about IRC read my guide to Epona services, a set of services used on the IRChat network.