IRC is the standard abbreviation for Internet Relay Chat. IRC is an internet protocol that allows you to chat in real time. You can talk in groups (called channels), or through private messages. Typically, a channel is set up to discuss a specific topic, however in most cases it is a free-for-all with pretty much anything up for conversation. For those unfamiliar with IRC, think of it like the E2 chatterbox, only the messages show up immediately (you don't have to keep reloading to see the new messages) and scroll by as new messages are added. If you'd like to introduce yourself to IRC with some users you are already familiar with, try out #everything.

To use IRC, you must connect to an IRC server with an IRC client or through a direct telnet connection. Common clients include:

Often IRC is a fast paced environment with channels including hundreds of people at once. Because of this, abbreviations are used to enable the users to type and read quickly. Most internet savy users will recognise these abbreviations and acronyms, but keep in mind, they all got their start on IRC.

  • AFK - away from keyboard
  • AFAIK - as far as I know
  • ATM - at the moment
  • BRB - be right back
  • IIRC - if I recall correctly
  • IMHO - in my humble opinion
  • IRL - in real life
  • LOL - laughing out loud
  • WB - welcome back
  • YMMV - your milage may vary
  • obviously there are hundreds more, but these give you the basic idea

IRC Glossary

  • ban - to temporarily or perminantly disallow a user from connecting to the IRC network
  • ban evasion - to login to an IRC network under a different alias after previously being banned
  • channel - a "room" on an IRC network. Channel names usually start with a hash sign (#)
  • channel operator - basically a channel administrator. They can kick people out of the channel, ban people from the channel, set the channel topic, etc.
  • DALnet - a very large IRC network that was formed by Dalvenjah to be a more friendly network than EFnet
  • Direct Client to Client (DCC) protocol - allows you to connect directly to another IRC client (as opposed to connecting through the IRC network)
  • EFnet - one of the oldest IRC networks
  • fserv - a DCC file server allowing IRC users to send files to each other
  • flood - when someone sends numerous lines to a channel in a short amount of time
  • IRC admin - someone who administrates an IRC server
  • IRC bot - A program that connects to IRC and appears to be a real user and can interact with users by providing information, conversing through AI, or protecting a channel
  • IRC network - a network of one or more IRC servers connected together
  • IRC operator - someone who helps to run and maintain an IRC server or IRC network
  • IRC server - a computer/server that is part of an IRC network which is running IRC software that allows users to connect and chat
  • kick - to force someone out of a channel
  • kill - to disconnect someone from an IRC server
  • local channel - a channel only available on one IRC server, and not the entire IRC network. Local channels have names starting with "&"
  • Message of the Day (MOTD) - a message that is shown when you connect to an IRC server that usually displays information on who runs the server, and any information the IRC admin wants you to know
  • netsplit - sometimes, two IRC servers will loose contact with each other and cause a split in the IRC network that can cause various temporary problems
  • nick - your nickname on IRC (which is changable)
  • NickServ - a service that lets you register your nick on an IRC network so that no one else can use it
  • op - abbreviation for channel operator
  • oper or sysop - abbreviation for IRC operator
  • Undernet - an IRC network originally formed because EFnet was getting to large

IRC Commands

You enter an IRC command by typing a forward slash ('/') followed by the command name, followed by any parameters (if applicable).

Common Commands

  • /away - Syntax: /away {away_message}
    The away command allows you to let other users know that you are AFK. The away message will be displayed to users to try to /msg you or do a /whois lookup on you.

  • /help - Syntax: /help
    The help command displays the list of valid commands that the server will recognise.

  • /join - Syntax: /join {channel_name}
    The join command allows you to enter/join a specified channel. For those unfamiliar with IRC, and channel is like a room on E2. Most channels start with the hash (or pound) sign (#), although local channels begin with an ampersand (&), and modeless channels start with a plus sign (+). The #, &, or + must be included when typing the channel name.

  • /leave - Syntax: /leave
    The leave command causes you to leave a channel. Most IRC servers use the /part command instead.

  • /list - Syntax: /list OR /list {wildcard}
    The list command will display a list of channels. If you use the wildcard option, it will display a list of channels that match the wildcard you entered.

  • /me - Syntax: /me {action_message}
    The me command displays your channel message as an action. It works exactly like on E2.

  • /msg - Syntax: /msg {nick_of_receiver} {message_text}
    The msg command allows you to send a private message to a specified user (See also /privmsg)

  • /nick - Syntax: /nick {your_nick}
    The nick command sets your nick (nickname) that will be displayed next to all of your chat dialog, and the name that other users will be able to private message you with (see also /msg and /privmsg).

  • /part - Syntax: /part
    The part command causes you to leave a channel (See also /partall and /quit)

  • /quit - Syntax: /quit {optional_quit_message}
    The quit command quits/disconnects from the IRC server. The optional quit message is displayed when you leave - perfect for allowing you to get the last word.

  • /say - Syntax: /say {message_text}
    The say command allows you to speak in a channel. Since say is the default command, it is not required to actually type this.

  • /who (1) - Syntax: /who {nick}
    The who command allows you to find out which channel a certain nick is in. You can use wildcards (*) in the nick to match similar names (See also /whois)

  • /who (2) - Syntax: /who *.{domain_name}
    The who command can also allow you to find out which users are connecting from a specific domain. This can help you to find people in your geographic area, or who have the same ISP as you. It can also be helpful for tracking someone down who has changed their nick (See also /whois)

  • /whois - Syntax: /whois {nick} OR /whois {nick1,nick2,nick3,etc}
    The whois command allows you to get basic information about one or more nicks, including their internet address, what channel they are in, and what server they are on. Some servers hide this information for security.

Additional Commands

  • /admin - Syntax: /admin
    The admin command displays some basic administrative data about the server.

  • /ignore - Syntax: /ignore [+|-]{nick}
    The ignore command filters out all messages (public and private) from being displayed on your screen. Since this is a client command, your computer still receives all the messages (and therefore user the bandwidth), but they are just not displayed to you. This is not supported by all clients.

  • /info - Syntax: /info
    The info command displays copyright info and developer credits.

  • /invite - Syntax: /invite {nick} {channel}
    The invite command sends an invitation to a user to join your channel. Note that some channels require an invite to allow you to enter (See /mode (3)). You must be an op to send an invitation.

  • /ison - Syntax: /ison {nick1 nick2 nick3}
    The ison (is on) command allows you to check if the specified users are online. You may specify multiple nicks, and the users that are online will be displayed back to you.

  • /kick - Syntax: /kick {channel_name} {nick} {reason}
    The kick command allows you to kick a person out of a channel. Only ops can kick.

  • /links - Syntax: /link
    The link command displays a view of how the IRC network is connect. This command does not work on all servers (See also /maps)

  • /lusers - Syntax: /lusers
    The lusers (list users) command displays information on the number of users, operators, channels, clients, and servers online. It is likely no cooincidence that this is very simliar to "losers".

  • /map - Syntax: /map
    The map command displays a view of how the IRC network is connect. This command does not work on all servers (See also /links)

  • /mode (1) - Syntax: /mode {nick} [+|-]{mode(s)}
    The mode command is most often reserved for sysops. This mode command (1) allows the sysop to set various modes or properties for your nick. Some of these include:

    • g - receive HACK wallops. Basically allows the user to receive desync messages
    • i - invisibility. The nick won't show up with the /who command, or on /whois with wildcards, but you can be "seen" by users in the same channel as you.
    • s - receive server notices
    • w - receive wallops. Allows the user to receive IRCop messages
    • d - deaf mode. You won't hear (though I suppose "see" is more appropriate) any of the public messages in a channel, though you will receive private messages. This is currently only used in Ircu.
    • x - hides your hostname in the /whois command results

  • /mode (2) - Syntax: /mode +s [+|-]{mask_number}
    The mode command can also be used to set server notice masks. Like the command above, these are most often reserved for sysops only, however this mode command is used for changing global settings. Each mask number is a power of 2, you can add the mask numbers together to set multiple options at once. For example, if you wanted to set mask 4 and mask 8, you could simply set mask 12, and be sure that there are no other combinations that could add up to 12. Some of the mask numbers include:

  • /mode (3) - Syntax: /mode {mode} {parameter}
    The mode command can also allow you to set modes for a channel. Some of these modes include:

    • b {nick} {reason} - ban someone from a channel
    • i - sets the channel as invite-only
    • k {password} - sets a password (key) for entering the channel
    • l {limit} - sets a limit on the number of users that can be in the channel at one time
    • m - channel is moderated - only ops and voiced people can talk
    • n - no messages may be sent to this channel from outside
    • o {nick} - set user as a channelop
    • p - channel is private
    • r - sets an account limited channel
    • s - channel is secret
    • v {nick} - Voice someone in a channel, allows them to speak through bans and moderations

  • /motd - Syntax: /motd
    The motd (message of the day) command displays a message from the server. This could be an announcement, notice, or just random quotes.

  • /names - Syntax: /names {channel_name}
    The names command displays all the nicks in a given channel.

  • /notice - Syntax: /notice {notice_receiver} {notice_text}
    The notice command allows you to send a quick private message without opening a private message window. Notices should never be responded to with an automatic reply (from a irc bot, for example).

  • /partall - Syntax: /partall
    The partall command causes you to leave all channels (See also /part and /quit)

  • /ping - Syntax: /ping {nick} OR /ping {channel_name}
    The ping command allows you to ping a user or channel.

  • /privmsg - Syntax: /privmsg {nick_of_receiver} {message_text}
    The privmsg command allows you to send a private message to a specified user. This command is not supported on all IRC servers, and it is more common (and safe) to use the /msg command instead.

  • /query - Syntax: /query {nick}
    The query command allows you to continually send private messages to the specified nick without having to keep entering /msg {nick} each time, but it also keeps the main public conversation displayed on the page. With the introduction of GUIs for IRC that can open a separate private message window, this command is not as useful as it used to be. To turn of query, simply type /query again with no nick specified (See also /msg)

  • /raw - Syntax: /raw {options}
    The raw command allows you to send raw commands to the server. There are literally tens of thousands of raw commands and options, so an explanation of this command is beyond the scope of this writeup.

  • /silence - Syntax: /silence [+|-]{nick}
    The silence command is very similar to the /ignore command except that it works from the server end to block messages by disliked users. Not all servers support this command.

  • /stats - Syntax: /stats
    The stats command displays various statistical information including ports, lists of banned users, away users count, etc. Stats is disabled on most servers for security.

  • /time - Syntax: /time
    The time command displays the current date and time on the IRC server.

  • /topic - Syntax: /topic OR /topic {topic_text}
    The topic command gets or sets the topic of the channel

  • /trace - Syntax: /trace {nick}
    The trace command displays the path between you and a specified user (i.e., what path your message travels along the network when you /msg them).

  • /userhost - Syntax: /userhost {nick}
    The userhost command displays the hostname of the specified user (See also /whois)

  • /userip - Syntax: /userip {nick}
    The userip command displays the IP address of the specified user (See also /whois)

  • /version - Syntax: /version
    The version command displays the software version of the software running the IRC server (often IRCU). See also /info.

  • /whowas - Syntax: /whowas {nick}
    The whowas command is very similar to /whois, however if a user has disconnected from the server, whowas information is stored in a buffer for a period of time.

See Also...