IRC: oldest chat service and the conversation hub for Free Software projects and other communities

The Internet Relay Chat, better known as IRC, this is one of the oldest chat services which was created by Jarkko Oikarine in 1988. This chat allows two or more people to communicate in real time, having the ability to communicate with several people at the same time since IRC was practically instantaneous towards totally real communication very fast and effective for users it was very easy to spend hours in the chat, although there were other chats that were more advanced since they included audio and video, but these were very expensive for this reason the user used the IRC more.

For this chat service it was possible to easily communicate with several people at the same time using the so-called channels or rooms, in this section they could communicate between groups. Claro also allowed him to have totally private communications if the user required it, that is, although the channels or chat rooms were open and there you could communicate with a group of people you could also maintain private communications with other people and this type Conversation or information that was kept private was never visible to other people.

It is essential to remember in this article that the IRC had to ensure proper functioning in the channels where the channel operators called Op were located, whose status allowed them to maintain control and discipline in the channel. Now, this chat had many advantages in addition to communicating with people either in groups or privately, you could also send or exchange files, documents and important and necessary information, which were immediately, these being in the form of text, pictures or sound etc. And this allows greater advantages when maintaining and sustaining fluid communication.

IRC as INFOMED

This chat also had academic scientific purposes. In fact, it was created to support teaching, assistance and research in Cuban institutions, its objective was to be able to have advances in different research both for Undergraduate and Postgraduate allowing these activities in the Virtual University. In short, it had many advantages and support for the new technological trends that were being experienced by programmers and hackers.

If hackers it is necessary to comment that there were people who used this chat to obtain instant information and thus access private and confidential documents and take advantage of this chat service.

The IRC was soon adopted by the inhabitants of the network the hackers the most popular chat networks were EfNet, UnderNet, IRCnet, DALnet. The first hackers opened their channels there and there they took the habit of meeting and having hacker exchanges and so on. to be able to have greater advantages for each of them, especially those who gathered here, their speech was English #esphack, #hispahack. This was the case until 1996 where the reference network appears in Spanish IRC-Hispanic, however, these hackers moved and then spent nights and nights until they could control this chat room. Thus hacker groups began to form where they used to have one or more channels under their control giving some privileges to their members. Where, after some time, many fights and discussions between hacker arose that were later framed the so-called IRC wars.

From these wars, different viruses began to emerge, such as the 32-bit polymorphic virus (Marburg). The first Trojan for PHP (Pirus), the first virus to infect PDAs (Dust) or, as is the case, the first to affect mobile phones (Cabir). The Spanish scene detected cracking and reverse engineering. Which were all around Latin America for the large database of information that hackers could obtain.

Learn to defend yourself against hackers

It is difficult to find yourself in wars between hackers where they had to defend each other by defending themselves from their computers so as not to be victims of war scripts. They proliferated from the robots that acted in the IRC networks, programmers being responsible for the networks or sometimes for the users themselves, they had their own NoSFeR robot when a user entered their network or channel the robot immediately analyzed their computer in search of the security holes and in this way they found them and it was easier for him to kick that user out of the channel or his network.

The Internet’s most glorious age for IRC was between the 1990s and the early 21st century. Which at that time the king of chat was undoubtedly IRC, and although 20 years have passed after its most successful time there are still users who use this chat, long before there were WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and other giants of Messaging, the golden age for clients to maintain real-time text-based communication with their clients connecting to a certain server where an IRC daemon is running.

IRC Features

One of the most important characteristics that IRC possesses is that it distinguishes it from face-to-face communication since through it a rapid intimacy is created between the interlocutors.

A face-to-face communication allows us to be more concentrated and attentive to what is being said because even the smallest gesture one can visualize and be able to respond immediately to all kinds of scenarios.

To finish with this topic of IRC chat service, it is necessary to remember that it was a chat that was extremely easy and simple to use and that in these times it had many successes, however, hackers also became known for taking into account the entire scope that they have makes us reflect that we must be more constant in our security systems because they still exist and always have systems, robots, viruses that in one way or another only need a minimal vulnerability of our system or computer to access to private information.

Persistent IRC solutions and IRC clients

In order to stay in touch with your IRC peers or friends online, you are going to be need a relay or a proxy that is always connected to the IRC server for you and you connect to it using one of the IRC clients for constant and reliable communication. In order to help solve this, we have good solutions like ZNC, Quassel, irssi and weechat. These are secure and open solutions that you can deploy on your server in case you have a unreliable connection at home or if you are always on the go. Quassel and Weechat both are my favorite solutions. Both of these solutions offer good community and web/native client support of their own and even third party if you like.

Instead of going for a proprietary solution like IRCcloud, I recommend you to look into self-hosting one of these or go with surprisingly low-cost yet reliable managed hosting from Market by TechnoFAQ.

Out of the bunch, ZNC is a simple yet interesting and most used option owing to its support for almost any IRC client in the market, among the most used clients today we have:

  • Xchat
  • Pidgin
  • konversation

ZNC is a proxy that connects to various networks for you and you connect to it when required using any modern IRC client of your choice.

All of the above solutions also offers you privacy and other users or server won’t be able to get your home ISP’s external IP when configured properly. You do not even require a VPN any more to protect your privacy on IRC.

Basic steps to connect to an IRC server, register a nickname and enter different chat rooms

1. The first thing is to choose the client to use in this case you can use Xchat as an example. Which we can install as root user with the command:

apt-get install xchat

2. Executing the chat client “xchat” will show a connection screen where we can place the necessary information to connect in this case the nick, second and third nick options if it is already in use, username, and real name, the network to connect to, which in our case would be the FreeNode server, then click on connect.

3. Once we are correctly connected to the IRC server, the first thing we must write is to execute the order in the text area for chat:

/help

Which shows a brief help and a list of commands that we can execute in the IRC Xchat chat client.

4. Then to observe the list of channels in our IRC chat client, just execute:

/list

5. Before entering the channel, if we want our nick to be registered on the server, we just have to execute the following command:

/msg NickServ register password [email protected]

6. Having our nick registered we only have to identify ourselves when we connect with our nick with:

/msg NickServ identify password

7. We can check if other users have sent us memos while we were offline with:

/msg MemoServ list

8. Then it only remains to enter a channel on the list that interests us with:

/join #debian

In this way, with a series of simple steps we can already handle ourselves in a basic way in IRC clients, if you want to advance more on the subject or learn a little more about the IRC commands or commands, you only have to execute any of the commands or help orders below:

/help
/msg help
/msg NickServ help
/msg ChanServ help
/msg MemoServ help

Conclusion

If you prefer distraction free chat or conversations, IRC along with various above said persistent IRC solutions are still a good option for communities for various magnitude. You have control over your data when you own the private server. If security, privacy and integrity of your data matters and if you like to focus on conversations and text instead of fancy notifications, IRC is everything you want.

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