Group chats made easier with IRC

It’s funny the cycles that tech goes through. When the Internet was in its infancy, everything was as open as it could be. The protocols were all based on open standards, and your machine could talk to any other machine. Then came the online services of the 80s. Compuserv, AOL, Delphi, Prodigy. Each service trying to keep you in their own little world. Messages did not pass between the services for the most part. In the 90s with the creation of the world wide web things became more open again. THe juggernaut of AOL/Compuserv collapsed while the other services faded into obscurity. This lasted until the middle 00s with the popularity of social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. We are now moving back to the 80s where everyone wants to keep you on their service. Alas, that is a rant for another day…

Fortunately, there are technologies that have been around to help minimize some of these influences. Today I’m talking about Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Created in 1988, IRC is a simple chat protocol that supports channels (or rooms) and private messages.

To help you get started, I’ve set up a chat room called #eduk8me on Freenode. To connect, you simply have to visit the Freenode web chat client. Create yourself a nickname, enter the captcha, and click Connect. The channel field will already be filled in.

Freenode login

Welcome to #eduk8me! Send me a private message saying hey! This will send me a notification.

/msg mr_rcollins Hey!

The simplicity of the protocol has some issues that we’re not used to dealing with. The first is that there are no accounts. You can reserve your nickname though, so others cannot use it unless they have the password. Freenode has a FAQ which deals with nickname registration. If you are just starting out you really don’t need to worry about it.

Where this comes in handy is when you want to have a group chat. IRC doesn’t require yet another user account and can scale pretty well. There are ways to do moderated chats too.

Check it out and tell me hi!