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Relay Chat (IRC) >
Key IRC Features
formally documented in May 1993 as part of RFC
1459 [IRC], most of the changes brought since then can be found
in this document as development was focused on making the protocol
scale better. Better scalability has allowed existing world-wide
networks to keep growing and reach sizes which defy the old specification.
- C. Kalt; Internet
Relay Chat: Server Protocol; RFC 2813; April 2000.
IRC leverages many of key features of the Internet,
providing a powerful tool for extending human communication across geographical
distances. Key features of IRC are described below:
- Distributed & real-time. IRC was the first world-wide chat
system, bringing people together in real-time at minimal cost across great
geographic distances, with a resultant cross-fertilization of human communications
across the planet. No-one can say for sure what changes these billions
of conversations have had on the development of world history, but we can
safely assume that the overall net effect has been largely positive.
- Emergency assistance. In a fortuitous turn of timing,
IRC showed its strength in facilitation of distributed communications
in several emergencies
shortly after it was created in the early 1990's, similar to the way amateur
radio networks have often been used, as described further below:
- Kuwait invasion. IRC first became known to the general public
around the world in 1991, when its use skyrocketed as users logged on
to get up-to-date information on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait through a
single functional Internet link
that stayed operational for a week after radio and television broadcasts
were cut off. The logs of this remarkable event are still online here and here.
- Russian rebellion. In 1993, when Russian lawmakers barricaded
themselves inside the Parliament building, a group of Russian and American
IRC users set up an IRC channel to communicate breaking news to people
around the world. The logs are here and here.
- California earthquake. In 1994, when the Northridge earthquake
hit California and other communications went down, a group of Los Angeles
IRC users set up a channel to communicate information about the situation
to people outside the area. The logs are here and here
- Hurricane Katrina.
In 2005, when the Hurricane Katrina struck
the city of New Orleans, breaching the levees and plunging large areas
under water, many landline and cellular phone systems crashed within
a few days. On the other hand, some Internet nodes remained
accessible through satellite and dial-up connections, providing the
infrastructure for Internet communications where other systems became
inoperative. For the first few days IRC was one of the only communication
mechanisms to gain information on the disaster; the server irc.psionics.net
hosted the channel #hurricane-katrina; the company Intercosmos used
IRC to help locate their staff.
IRC has even helped arrange a few weddings (also here).