What is ZNC? Why is it the most popular IRC bouncer?

A ZNC is an advanced IRC bouncer you can connect to whenever you want.

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, written 32 years ago in Aug 1988 by a Finnish IT professional Mr Jarkko Oikarinen. It is one of the first Internet chat network in the world. IRC is still popular and actively used by a lot of users across the globe. IRC is much more like a group chat in modern IM terms. It is mostly text based just no fancy tools like you have in Telegram groups. It is designed to communicate over text for most part.

The role of ZNC is like a proxy. While you disconnect your IRC client from the network connected via a ZNC, it still remains connected to the IRC network. Once you get back on with your IRC client, all messages you missed in the channel are saved and readable. This is a very neat way to not lose conversations and chats within the IRC channel of your favorite IRC network like freenode or efnet. You can also set a pre-defined away message so people will know once you’re away from keyboard. The ZNC will automatically set your username on away while disconnecting the IRC client. Handy!

Features of ZNC as an advanced IRC bouncer

0. Free Software

ZNC is completely free/libre software. It is licensed under the Apache License 2.0. Proud supporters of Free Software movement will love it. You can compile your copy using the source code, audit it and edit it as you desire.

1. Persistent IRC connections

Being one of the earliest design of a chat network, IRC was never meet to be an always-on and connected chat client software. People lived a life back then and were not into enjoying most part of their day and night on computers. So, IRC was like joining a physical group. You are there until you are physical present. Once you leave, you are out of the conversation. Fair enough for 90s. But, things have changed over time. Now one cannot live without persistent connections, offline messaging is the new normal. While IRC was not meant for such chats. ZNC helps you a lot by remaining connected to IRC server while being disconnected with the IRC client. You can call it your tape-recorder in a physical meeting of groups that you can rewind and control remotely to convey your messages.

2. Read missed messages from IRC channels or private messages

Offline messages are not limited to channels or groups only. IM/DM or whatever you want to call it, works as fine. ZNC keeps your presence while you are away doing other important things even in Private messages.

3. Hide your home public IP with an IP assigned by the IRC bouncer i.e. ZNC

Being a proxy, it hides your Public IP from the IRC network offering you a basic shield of privacy just like a privacy VPN does. You can now use built-in ZNC options to prevent important time-zone, IRC client version related leaks too. It is best to expose less to a strange world by default.

4. Multiple client, simultaneous connection support

You can connect to an IRC network via ZNC account using any IRC client that support ZNC on every modern platform including but not limited to Android, GNU/Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS, BSD etc concurrently without any issues. Is it not fun? Also, you have a plethora of clients including native GUI and text-based IRC clients and even web-based client to choose from. Chances are all the modern IRC clients today support ZNC out of the box.

5. Web-based admin panel

Although ZNC offers a text-based control panel with most of the functionality available right in your IRC client when connected to a ZNC account. It is not at all a nerd exclusive IRC bouncer. It is meant to be a user-friendly tool to connect to and use IRC more effectively. A dedicated web-panel called webadmin is available to both Admin and users to add IRC networks and channels, change account settings or preferences including ZNC account password etc. It is one of the most easy web panel that I have come across. Kudos to ZNC for that!

6. Dual-stack connectivity

ZNC has full dual stack with absolutely no connection issues for IPv4/IPv6-only or dual-stack users. It can not only allow connections from ZNC users but also connect to IRC networks using both protocols. Moreover unique features like optional separate bindhost for every ZNC user, makes it fun for an Admin to grant IPv6/v4-only or dual-stack access to a given client. It is so well designed and has been constantly updated since its first release.

7. Add users. Connect to multiple networks and channels.

Practically a simple ZNC instance running on base VPS can host up to 1000 users with multiple networks and channels without any trouble. ZNC is not resource heavy at all. It loves more users and IRC connections depending on your network. Further, you are not required to open multiple ports per user unlike with other persistent IRC solutions like weechat. A single port welcomes and handles all the users pretty well. It is better for cost and security.

8. TLS/SSL support to protect your IRC chats with encryption.

ZNC offers robust TLS protection and support out of the box. You can enforce TLS/SSL in ZNC configurations. By doing so, you assure at least one leg of the communication that is from a IRC client to your ZNC is always encrypted.

9. Connect to the ZNC over TOR or VPN for added privacy.

Most IRC networks have their own rules to prevent you from connecting to their network using a VPN IP address or TOR network. Mostly it is not allowed owing to fear of network abuse. You can configure a ZNC on a server to use TOR and users can connect to ZNC over TOR without exposing their own public IP to the ZNC Admin. You can create a trust by allowing so. Privacy is fundamental part of human life.

10. Client-less, bring your own IRC client

Most persistent IRC solutions while require you to use their own client to connect to a core like Quassel or weechat in order to gain access to configured IRC networks. With ZNC however you are good to go with any modern IRC client. There is no official ZNC client till date. It was meant to be so IRC compatible that it after a while you forget about using any IRC bouncer only.

11. Built-in useful modules

With ZNC you get so many built-in modules like SASL. Also, you are at liberty to develop and deploy your own third party modules for the server software.

Admin’s point of view – its fun to help people and build a community on text-only chat network

Being a ZNC admin is a good way to create a private community and help people on their way using IRC and show them all the features that come with the ZNC. People will value your work if you help them out the proper way and even donate if they really like the service! Updates for the ZNC are on a regular basis to provide the ZNC with new features and bug fixes. Development of ZNC has not stalled ever in my experience of using it for last couple of years. While installing updates it is possible to broadcast a message to all your internal ZNC users, so they will know once you’re disconnecting the server for a maintenance etc.

ZNC as a project is well thought from Admin’s point of view. You have a robust set of tools accessible over both text-only control panel and web panel to help manage users and their IRC networks without much efforts.

Conclusion

When using IRC a lot a ZNC is a must have tool! It will enhance your IRC experience. No longer will you miss any messages or chats. Your privacy will be respected as you “borrow” an IP from the ZNC server. IRC is a world in itself, with many people willing to help you on a plethora of topics. With availability of multiple technology and lifestyle related networks hosting official channels for various open-source project that you already use like your one of your favorite distribution of GNU/Linux. Or with an option to host and register your own channel for a small local community to do various fun projects. IRC is cool and welcoming to all! ZNC is like the missing manual to IRC if you ask me. IRC is real with more active users than you will find elsewhere in my experience. Join IRC now!

Love the idea of ZNC already? Get an free account from us directly. Yes, we run a ZNC service called TechnoFAQZNC. It has been added to ZNC’s official ‘Providers’ list now. Interested users can click here or join #TechnoFAQZNC on freenode to reserve your free account now!

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