Internet Relay Chat

The chat protocol known as IRC was originally developed in 1988 as a way to establish real time synchronous communication on the internet, which previously had only been home to the less mature ‘talk’ command and asymmetric communication such as E-Mail and forums.

IRC has fallen out of favor with the advent of “walled garden” proprietary chat systems like Apple iMessage, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger. A little known fact however is that IRC is still used heavily internally by some engineering teams at all three companies because it is simple, reliable, and will still be working when their own complex proprietary systems are offline.

Public IRC networks are not only alive and well, but still the de-facto place to communicate in real time with many of the worlds best software engineers, system administrators, security professionals, and maintainers of your favorite open source projects. All of whom prefer a standard communication system not controlled by any single entity or company, much like HTTP, email, and other major internet protocols.

#! provides IRC chat clients to all of our users to communicate with each other and provide a bridge to other IRC networks, but here we will explore how to do it by hand in telnet, which is the basis for making your own IRC clients, bots, and connecting with hundreds of thousands of the smartest people in the world.

The hard way

  1. Connect to the FreeNode IRC server
telnet 6667

It will respond trying to ask for your identity on the server:

Connected to
Escape character is '^]'. NOTICE * :*** Looking up your hostname... NOTICE * :*** Checking Ident NOTICE * :*** Found your hostname
  1. Now tell the server who you are.
PASS none
NICK jdoe
USER guest 0 * :John Doe 

The server should greet you with a long “message of the day” welcoming you.

  1. Now verify you have communication to the server with a “PING”

It should reply with: PONG
  1. Now join a channel

JOIN ##linux

You should see a giant list of the hundreds of people in this room.

Stick around for a few minutes and you should see people talking

  1. Send a message to the channel
PRIVMSG ##linux :hello! I am connected from telnet and have no idea what I am doing.

Everyone should see your message:

<jdoe> hello! I am connected from telnet and have no idea what I am doing.
  1. Respond to server PING requests

After a bit the server will send you a PING request to see if you are still there.

It will look like this:


Respond with a PONG.

  1. After you’ve had your fun, quit and return to your shell with the QUIT command.

Use an optional reason for quitting, if you’re afraid of looking impolite.

QUIT Leaving now. I'll be back later, my new found friends.

The easy way

Connect using a common command line application called weechat.

weechat -r " \
	/server add freenode -ssl;\
	/set irc.server.freenode.autojoin '##linux';\
	/connect freenode \


Congratulations, you are functionally using IRC by hand like it is the 80s!

Now go write some IRC bots, talk to industry experts, and take over the world.