Ramblings of General Geekery

IRC turned 30

Last month marked IRC’s 30 year anniversary! Jarkko Oikarinen booted up the first IRC server some time in August 1988 at the University of Oulu in Finland.

The New Stack reminisced about the good ol’ days:

“It’s the kind of place that slaps you around a bit with a large trout.”

Developer Khaled Mardam-Bey enhanced his 1995 Windows IRC client mIRC
with a /slap command based on an old Monty Python skit. Typing /slap
and a user’s name would type out a sentence indicating that you were
slapping that user around with a large trout.

I used mIRC in the late 90s and early 2000s as a French student, and definitely remember this “feature” that I found funny but totally random. Of course, that’s because I didn’t know the Monty Python back then… I hadn’t given it any thought until recently!

This IRC anniversary is also a good opportunity to see how resilient open and decentralized communication protocols are – while proprietary platforms like ICQ or AOL IM came and went away, IRC just carried on. As Drew DeVault says, please stop using Slack.

Of course, IRC has its share of problems, but it’s sad how Slack is solving them not by improving IRC, but by building a different, proprietary solution. I guess this is what happens when the Internet stops being built by universities, governments, and communities, and is instead built by publicly traded companies and VC-backed start-ups… although you occasionally find a rare one that does the right thing.

Indeed, I had checked IRCCloud a while ago, but figured I wanted to keep “having fun”1 managing my own ZNC bouncer with multi-client support and notifications. But now, I realize that they’re helping with the IRCv3 standard (like, say, implementing reply threads and avatars), so I started supporting them by using (and paying for) their service (which, incidentally, you can point to your private ZNC if you wish to). Their client is pretty good, too (both online or as a phone app). Basically that’s me voting with my wallet.

Long live IRC! Or Matrix. Or something.

  1. For a certain definition of “fun” that not everybody shares. ↩︎