Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Internet Relay Chat FAQ
What is IRC?
IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat". It was originally
written by Jarkko Oikarinen (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (usually called 'irc') 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 use a client?
First, check to see if irc is installed on your system. Type
"irc" from your prompt. If this doesn't work, ask your local systems
people if irc is already installed. This will save you the work of
installing it yourself.
If an IRC client isn't already on your system, you either
compile the source yourself, have someone else on your machine compile
the source for you, or use the TELNET client.
"telnet ircclient.itc.univie.ac.at 6668". Please only use the latter when
you have no other way of reaching IRC, as this resource is quite
limited, slow, and *very* unreliable.
Where can I get source for the irc client?
You can anonymous ftp to any of the following sites (use the
one closest to you): *** If you don't know what anonymous ftp is, ask
your local systems people to show you ***
REXX client for VM
Which server do I connect to?
It's usually best to try and connect to one geographically
close, even though that may not be the best. You can always ask when you
get on irc. Here's a list of servers avaliable for connection:
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list, but merely a start. Connect
to the closest of these servers and join the channel #Twilight_Zone
When you get there, immediately ask what you want. Don't say "I have a
question" because then hardly anyone will talk.
OK, I've got a client and I'm connected to a server? Now what?
It's probably best to take a look around and see what you want
to do first. All irc commands start with a "/", and most are one word.
Typing /help will get you help information. /names will get you a list
of names, etc.
The output is typically something like this-> (Note there are more
channels than this, this is just sample output).
Pub: #hack zorgo eiji Patrick fup htoaster
Pub: #Nippon @jircc @miyu_d
Pub: #nicole MountainD
Pub: #hottub omar liron beer Deadog moh pfloyd Dode joek
(Note there are LOTS more channels than this, this is just sample
output -- one way to stop /names from being too large is doing /names
-min 20 which will only list channels with 20 or more people on it,
but you can only do this with the ircII client).
"Pub" means public (or "visible") channel. "hack" is the channel name.
"#" is the prefix. A "@" before someone's nickname indicates he/she is the
"Channel operator" (see #7) of that channel. A Channel Operator is someone
who has control over a specific channel. It can be shared or not as the
first Channel Operator sees fit. The first person to join the channel
automatically receives Channel Operator status, and can share it with
anyone he/she chooses (or not). Another thing you might see is "Prv"
which means private. You will only see this if you are on that private
channel. No one can see Private channels except those who are on that
particular private channel.
What is a channel operator? What is an irc operator?
A channel operator is someone with a "@" by their nickname in
a /names list, or a "@" by the channel name in /whois output. Channel
operators are kings/queens of their channel. This means they can kick
you out of their channel for no reason. If you don't like this, you
can start your own channel and become a channel operator there.
An IRC operator is someone who maintains the IRC network. They
cannot fix channel problems. They cannot kick someone out of a channel
for you. They cannot /kill (kick someone out of IRC temporarily)
someone just because you gave the offender channel operator privileges
and said offender kicked *you* off.
What is a "bot"? How can I get one?
"bot" is short for "robot". It is a script run from an ircII
client or a seperate program (in perl, C, and sometimes more obscure
languages). StarOwl@uiuc.edu (Michael Adams) defined bots very well: "A
bot is a vile creation of /lusers to make up for lack of penis length".
IRC bots are generally not needed. See below about "ownership" of
nicknames and channels.
It should be noted that many servers (especially in the USA) have
started to ban ALL bots. Some ban bots so much that if you run a bot on
their server, you will be banned from using that server (see segment below
on K: lines).
What are good channels to try while using irc?
#hottub and #jeopardy are almost always teeming with people.
#hottub is meant to simulate a hot tub, and #jeopardy is non-stop game of
the popular television series "Jeopardy".
To get a list of channels with their names and topics, do
/list -min 20 (on ircII) which will show you channels with 20 or more
members. You can also do this for smaller numbers.
Many IRC operators are in #Twilight_Zone ... so if you join
that channel and don't hear much talking, don't worry, it's not because
you joined, operators don't talk much on that channel anyways!
Someone is using my nickname, can anyone do anything about it?
Someone is using my channel, can anyone do anything about it?
Even while NickServ registered nicknames, there
are not enough nicknames to have nickname ownership. If someone takes
your nickname while you are not on irc, you can ask for them to give it
back, but you can not demand it, nor will irc operators /kill for
There are, literally, millions of possible channel names, so if
someone is on your usual channel, just go to another. You can /msg them
and ask for them to leave, but you can't *force* them to leave.
There aren't any channel operators on my channel, now what?
Channel operators are the owner(s) of their respective channels.
Keep this in mind when giving out channel operator powers (make sure to
give them to enough people so that all of the channel operators don't
unexpectedly leave and the channel is stuck without a channel operator).
On the other hand, do not give out channel operator to
*everyone*. This causes the possibility of mass-kicking, where the
channel would be stuck without any channel operators.
You have one option. You can ask everyone to leave and rejoin
the channel. This is a good way to get channel operator back. It
doesn't work on large channels or ones with bots, for obvious reasons.
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 a certain command with the ircII
client that gives anyone immediate control of your client (and thus can
alter your account environment also).
What was NickServ? Is NickServ ever coming back?
NickServ was a nickname registration service run in Germany. It
was a bot that told people who used a registered nickname to stop using
that nickname. NickServ has been down since the Spring of 1994.
It is not likely that NickServ will be back.
Remember, nicknames aren't owned.
What does "*** Ghosts are not allowed on IRC." mean?
What does "*** You are not welcome on this server." mean?
On IRC, you cannot be banned from every single server.
Server-banning exists only on a per-server basis (being banned on one
server does not mean you are automatically banned from another). "Ghosts
are not allowed on IRC" means that you are banned from using that server.
The banning is in one of three forms:
The most general answer is "use another server", but if it bothers
you, try writing to the irc administrator of that site -->
/admin server.name.here -- plead your case. It might even get somewhere!
- You are banned specifically, you yourself. Only you can be responsible
for this (if you are using a shared account, this obviously does not
apply). Thus the responsibility lies completely with you and you have
noone to complain to.
- Your machine is banned. Chances are it wasn't you who committed the
wrongdoing. Try using another machine on campus and seeing if you can
use that particular irc server then.
- Your whole site is banned (where "site" == "school", "company",
"country"). This almost certainly wasn't your fault. And chances are
you won't be able to get the server-ban lifted. Try using another
What does "You have new email." mean? What does it mean when I see
"[Mail: 5]" in my status bar?
IRC does not have its own mail. However, if your client tells you
that you have new email, it simply means that you have received mail in
your account. Leave irc (either by suspending it or quitting it), and read
You might also see "You have new email." when you start irc. IRC
does not keep track of email between sessions, so when you start irc and
have something in your mailbox, irc will tell you you have new email.
The "[Mail: 5]" in your status bar tells you how many email
messages you have in your mailbox. Again, to access them, leave irc and
read them using your normal mail reader.
Where can I find GIF archives of irc people?
GIF archives of irc people are available:
ftp.funet.fi:/pub/pics/gif/pics/people/misc/irc -- NORDUnet Only!
Where can I learn more?
The best, basic, irc user's manual is the IRC Primer, available in plain text, PostScript, and LaTeX. Another good place to start
might be downloading the irc tutorials. They're avaliable via
anonymous ftp from cs-ftp.bu.edu in /irc/support/tutorial.* -- there are
three, tutorial.1,tutorial.2, and tutorial.3. The
third tutorial mentions a fourth but as of this writing it has not
been released. You can also join various IRC related mailing
lists. "operlist" is a list that discusses current (and past) server
code, routing, and protocol. You can join by mailing
email@example.com. Another mailing list,
firstname.lastname@example.org, exists to discuss protocol revisions for the 3.0
release of the ircd, currently in planning. Mail
email@example.com to be added to that.
Those looking for more technical information can get the IRC
RFC (rfc1459) available at all RFC ftp sites, as well as
What do I do if I'm still confused or have additions to this posting?
email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask for help (in #Twilight_Zone) on irc.
To fully experience Internet Digital Radio, you need a sound card and
Internet Web software (Netscape or Mosaic). You should have at least
14.4 KBs access, as a typical song file will be 1.5 to 3 MBytes long,
and a complete radio show can be as long as 30 or 40 MBytes (although
they are often divided into smaller files).
WWW sites that have Radio Internet resources include the following:
Radio on the Internet
Stations on the Internet by Yahoo