Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a form of real-time Internet text messaging (chat) or synchronous conferencing. IRC was born during summer 1988 when Jarkko Oikarinen wrote the first IRC client and server when he was working in the Department of Information Processing Science at the University of Oulu, Finland. This system enables millions of people around the world to communicate in real time. While IRC has lost some popularity, IRCv3 looks interesting with some advanced client features such as instant notifications, improved security and more.
IRC is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels, but it also allows one-to-one communication via private message as well as chat and data transfers via Direct Client-to-Client.
IRC is used for many different purposes such as obtaining technical support from developers and users, for conducting meetings and even for rolegaming.
Users typically connect to an IRC network using an IRC client. The client takes the raw IRC traffic and turns it into an easy-to-use interface.
Although the IRC protocol does not provide any file transfer mechanisms, users can create file servers that allow them to share files with each other by using customised IRC bots or scripts for their IRC client.
IRC is a good way of engaging with the Linux community. Being able to tap into the wealth of knowledge of individuals logged into IRC enables users to engage directly with developers and other users of distributions and applications. IRC is not just limited to obtaining and giving technical support to others; it can be used for many other activities.
To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled an updated list of 16 praiseworthy IRC clients. There’s a mix of graphical and console based applications included. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for all types of users. As the chart below indicates, we give our highest recommendation to HexChat, WeeChat, and Quasell IRC.
Now, let’s explore the 16 IRC clients at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, providing a screenshot of the software in action, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.
|HexChat||Multi-network IRC client based on XChat|
|WeeChat||Wee Enhanced Environment for Chat; very light and extensible|
|Pidgin||Easy to use and free chat client supporting lots of protocols|
|Polari||Simple to use IRC Client|
|Quassel IRC||Distributed, KDE4/Qt based|
|Smuxi||Smart MUltipleXed Irc - the IRC client for sophisticated users|
|Irssi||Console based client supporting SILC and ICB protocols|
|KVIrc||KDE based next generation IRC client with module support|
|Konversation||User friendly client for KDE Plasma 5|
|ERC||Powerful, modular, and extensible IRC client for Emacs|
|ScrollZ||Advanced ircII-based IRC client|
|EPIC||Based on ircII, EPIC excels at scripting|
|Kiwi IRC||Web based client with a good range of features|
|Communi||Simple and elegant cross-platform IRC client|
|BarnOwl||Curses-based tty Jabber, IRC, and Zephyr client|
|dxirc||Simple yet capable cross-platform IRC client|
Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, alternatives to Google, fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.