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Millenial Developer's Introduction to IRC

Imagine it's the 90s. Paisa is really a thing, cartoon network is not CN and "Shaktiman" still spins (at least in India he did). It was also a pre-whatsapp era. No messenger. No Slack. OMG how did we used to chat back then?

Internet Relay Chat

Today, IRC is one of the best ways to reach out to the internet communities. Android or web, old or new, nearly all the communities have one or more active channels on IRC.

Couldn't I just join their slack channel / google group / telegram group / <any platform you communicate on> group?

You can. It's your choice. But I met one of the coolest people I know on IRC channels and I want you to give it a try.

Okay. But what was IRC again?

Technically, it's a protocol (like http or ftp) but for the rest of the article, I will treat it as a platform. Bear with me.

So, IRC works on the traditional server-client architecture. Servers are already there and available for you to connect. Free.

The Catch? I don't know. There are no ads. Although a bit of spamming but you can turn it off. Don't worry. You already have a Google and Facebook account (yes, I assumed). You can't be exploited more.

To connect to these servers, you need an IRC client. I recommend the following:

  • For Windows : mIRC
  • For Mac : limechat
  • For Linux : hexchat
  • For Web :

  • I'll be showing how to register on freenode servers via webchat. Go to You'll get here:

  • Fill up any nick (username) you want. You'll be known by that name.

  • Leave channel empty for now

  • Check "I'm not a robot" and connect. You'll have something like this:

  • Great! Now we'll get you registered. What's registered you ask? Consider this as creating a new account on freenode server. Currently, you are logged in but you are in a type of guest session. As soon as you log out, your username (nick) is up for grabs.

  • In order to hold on to your nickname, you need to get yourself register. Although, it's not the only reason. Some channels won't let you join them until you have a registered nick.

  • Now type
    /msg NickServ REGISTER password
    Here "/msg" is the command. "NickServ" is a bot that does things for you in freenode.

  • All the commands on IRC starts with "/". There is a single space for writing commands as well as our chats.

  • Your email address will get a verification message and you're registered.

  • Now the next time you login via webchat, mark the "Auth to services" option and put in your nick and password.

You might wanna try logging in again. Just to be confident about it.

Now let's get you into a channel. To join a channel put in the following command at the bottom:

/join #dgplug

dgplug is my favorite channel on IRC. I spend most of my time here. Channels in IRC have '#' sign in front of them. You can join any channel using 'join' command.

Let's go through some IRC lingo.


nick is your nickname. It's like your username for that server. You'll be known by that nick in any channel you join in that server.


channel is like a group, corresponding to whatsapp group or messenger group or slack channel. To become part of any channel, you just have to type:
/join #<insert your channel name here>

Most of the time the channel will be open to all but sometimes they are password protected.

channel op or ops

channel ops are like operators/admins for the channel. They can kick you out from the channel for not following the rules. Yes, every channel has their own code of conduct - the way you're supposed to behave.

In case you're kicked out, you can rejoin the channel and apologize. But sometimes ops can ban you from the channel which means your nick cannot join that channel. Ever.

Be respectful, don't cuss or spam and watch your tone. Ask before personally messaging someone (yes you can send personal messages too!). Directly messaging people is frowned upon.

Also, one thing that came uneasy to me was, that no text gets saved in IRC. So, if you're not online and there is chatter in your channel, you won't know about it. There won't be any record of your previous chats either. We have ways around it, but that's for another time (psst search for IRC bouncer).

Every server has their own set of commands that they support. So does the clients. For now, we'll go through some of the common freenode supported commands:

you know what? I am gonna be lazy on this one. Why don't you go through this link

I use '/whois' a lot. It's kind of fun to figure out information about other nicks. But you don't want to be caught using it. It's embarrassing.

That's all folks. I hope you have fun in your IRC experience. Swing by #dgplug sometime and send me 'hey!', I go by the nick - sigmapie8.

P.S. Mozilla has a really great page on IRC too. Check it out.