Internet Relay Chat(IRC): A Complete Overview(2021)

Ajay Ohri


What would the world be without the internet and chat facilities? Chat is perhaps one of the internet’s most popular features, allowing one to connect and communicate with people or other users of the internet. The IRC or Internet Relay Chat is an application or IRC protocol working on the internet and was the effort of Finland’s Jakko Oikarinen.

How to use IRC? The Internet Relay Chat has several “channels” or topics that can facilitate conversations wherein one can chat with a specified group of people across the world. On joining a particular channel and using its software, one can see the messages typed by others keyed-in on their keyboards. For Ex: A group chat allows one to see whatever is typed in by any and all members of the group. It is also possible to hold private conversations with a particular person using the same software. Hence worldwide, the channels use a server to get online, and while some servers may have hordes of users, other channels may have a lesser number of channels.

In this article let us look at:

  1. IRC Model
  2. IRC Chatting
  3. IRC Working
  4. Client Software for Chat
  5. Chat Servers
  6. Smileys

1. IRC Model

Internet Relay Chats use a client-server model, meaning that software for both the server and client is required to establish the conversation. Most Information Technology or IT clients can use Internet Relay Chat across their various computer kinds due to the IRC network. Hence nearly all computers like a Macintosh, PC, UNIX-based work-section, and more can use IRC.

2. IRC Chatting

The process of chatting using the Internet Relay Chat-IRC involves the client communicating or connecting with the IRC server via the internet. This process involves the avoidance of internet relay chat crime using the client interface to log on to the server and choosing the chat channel. Whenever one uses, or type’s on the keyboard, the communication is sent to the server. As this server is part of a global network of IRC servers, the server communicates with the host channel which relays the communication to the channel one chose to communicate to. In turn, the channel at the other end can see, read and type in a response to the message.

Websites do not use the IRC channel. Rather their proprietary software for chats enables chatting services permitting communications on the website. Another popular type of chat software is Instant Messaging. Here, one can privately chat or hold one-to-one conversations with others on the network. In IM-Instant Messaging, a list of buddies can be created to indicate their presence online and readiness to chat.

3. IRC Working

The servers form a network of Internet Relay Chat servers and are connected using spanning tree architecture. This means that even though each of the servers may be connected to other servers, they are not directly connected to each other. To connect to the server, one must choose the channel one wishes to use and provide one’s password and user-ID to log in.

Once logged in, one will have to also choose the topic of the chat. This communication and choice are then relayed using the client software on one’s computer/laptop to the IRC server, which relays this message to the correct channel where one will find users of the same topic and channel logged in. This architecture always uses the shortest route when transferring server-to-server messages, and communications are sent to client-servers.

4. Client Software for Chat

Different chat types use different Internet Relay Chat software. Given below is a list of popular servers and their requirements for the software.

  • The IRC- Internet Relay chat uses chat programs like Ircle and mIRC.
  • AOL chat (America Online) uses the America online-AOL access program. 
  • Web-based chats like Google chat et,c use web browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape.
  • Direct chat programs could use AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, or other software programs like these.
  • The popular online conferencing chats use a conferencing program like Netmeeting, CU-SeeMe, Netscape conference, etc.

5. Chat Servers

The Internet Relay Chat server allows communication and transports the data to a huge number of users connected to a particular environment and is akin to the newsgroups of the internet. Modern technology has advanced servers, which can also relay conversations containing text-based conversations, which include video and dynamic audio support. The 3 types of servers used for communication are

  • UnderNet Servers
  • EFnet servers
  • DALnet servers 

The servers always have a hostname, which reveals the type of internet access and its server name. Note that if the server is already full and has its maximum user connections already connected to it, one will not be able to connect to such a server.

6. Smileys

The meaning of speech is not derived by word alone. In fact, face-to-face conversations include a tonal significance, facial expressions etc., which actually contribute to the meaning. However, in today’s world, texting has assumed importance and can communicate your conversation globally. A smiley helps personalize the written message by adding a feeling to it. For Ex: The grinning smiley when a joke is cracked, and others are internet relay chat examples. There are other smileys, too, that add meaning. Like the 

  • Widely Used Smileys
  • Basic Smileys
  • Midget Smileys
  • Usenet Smileys running on the Usenet and Internet Relay Chat.
  • Mega Smileys
  • Emotional Smileys. 


We have just studied what is IRC and the way in which it connects, communicates and the several types of Internet Relay Chat software required for chats. Smileys are a revolution that has added an additional dimension to chat conversations by adding a tonal quality to it. With advancements in the technology the latest chats support graphics, video and audio conferencing too.

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