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IRC FAQ

The purpose of this FAQ is to answer Frequently Asked Questions about IRC.

It serves as a short and quick introduction to IRC for new users, describing what IRC is, how it works, and how to start using it. It also covers topics that IRC users often have questions about, such as connection issues or channel etiquette. Finally, it describes some of the basic commands that IRC users need to know to join channels, chat privately, and more.

If you have questions that are not answered in this FAQ, remember that you can always join a help channel on IRC for more help.

1. What is IRC?

IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat". IRC is a multi-user chat system where people meet on "channels" (rooms with a certain topic of conversation) to talk in groups or chat privately. It was originally created by Jarkko Oikarinen in 1988 and has been updated and extended by many other people since then.

2. How does IRC work?

As a user, you run an IRC client that connects to an IRC server on an IRC network. Each IRC network can be made up of many interconnected servers that, together, make up that network. The servers pass messages from user to user over the entire network. There are many IRC networks, both large, with tens of thousands of users and channels, and small. Each IRC network is separate from and independent of other networks and is run by its own set of owners and administrators.

3. What does a client do? What is the purpose of a server?

An IRC client is the software that you use to communicate with other users on an IRC network. IRC clients are generally command-based, which means that a client reads in the commands that you type into it and performs the appropriate actions.

An IRC server holds information about the channels and people on IRC, as well as other pieces of information, and is also responsible for routing your messages to other users.

4. How do I get on IRC?

You have to download and install an IRC client. There are IRC clients for every operating systems, including Windows, Apple, and Android. You can even use IRC through websites.

5. Where can I find an IRC client?

You can find an IRC client by searching Google or your App store.

6. What else do I need before I can install an IRC client?

All you need is a working internet connection.

7. How do I install this client that I found?

If you are using a desktop operating system, such as Windows, you will normally download the installer for the IRC client, run it, and it will install it for you. After installation, you can run the IRC client.

If you are using a mobile operating system, such as Android or iOS, you can install it through your App store.

8. How do I get started?

The first time you run your IRC client, you will have to fill in some information about yourself. Your client will have a section where you enter your name, email address, and nickname.

You will also need to choose the IRC network or server that you want to connect to. Most IRC clients come with a default list of networks, so you can just choose one. However, you can also add a server manually, in which case you will need to know details such as the server's address and port.

9. Which IRC server should I connect to?

You can usually connect to any server on a network and you should be fine. Some networks may have policies that limit connections to some servers based on geographical closeness, in which case you may need to try different server on a network to find one that works for you. In general, the closer a server is the better.

10. What is the port number to use to connect to IRC?

In general, the port number to use is 6667. Some, but not all, servers listen to other ports (most commonly in the 6665-6670 range). When in doubt, select port 6667 (DALnet usually uses port 7000). Some servers also support secure connections via SSL on certain ports, such as 6697 or 7001.

11. Do I need a password to connect to IRC?

Normally, you do not need a password to use an IRC server. Most servers allow anonymous access. If you do not have a password for an IRC server, leave the password entry field blank. If you are prompted for a login or password and you don't know what to type, try another server.

12. Do I have to give my real name?

You do not have to give your real name. Whatever you type as your real name can be seen by other users on IRC in your /whois reply. Normally, IRC users enter a greeting, or something witty, as their name.

13. Do I have to give my real email address?

You do not have to give your email address.

14. What is a nickname?

On IRC, you are known to others by a nickname. You are free to choose any nickname you like, up to 9 characters long. Do not use spaces and avoid unusual ASCII characters in your nickname. It is very common to find people that use the same nickname and you may be asked to switch nicknames to avoid confusion. Some networks allow you to register a nickname with a password, so that only you can use it.

15. What is my IP Address?

Your IP Address is the address of your connection on the internet. There are two types of addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 addresses are more common and consist of four numbers separated by periods, such as 192.168.1.1. An IPv6 address consists of eight hexadecimal digits separated by colons, such as 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334. Some internet providers give you a unique IP Address (static IP), others give you a different one every time you connect (dynamic IP). With Dynamic IP addresses, you have to make sure your client automatically looks up your current IP Address and your Local Host name each time it connects to IRC.

16. What is my Local Host name?

Your Local Host name is the name your internet provider has assigned to your internet connection. It can be a single word or a name equivalent to your IP Address.

17. I tried to connect to a server and received a "Connection refused," "Connection timed out" or "Unknown host" message.

If you see any of these error messages, your should first try connecting to other servers. If you cannot connect to any IRC servers at all, on any network, the issue may be due to your internet connection. If you can connect to other servers, the issue may just be with the specific server you are trying to connect to. Servers sometimes stop working for a short time, for example, if they are being upgraded or restarted. Sometimes, however, they may stop working if the owners no longer want to maintain them. In that case, you would need to find a new IRC network to use.

You also need to make sure that the server address you are connecting to is correct. For example, the server address for the EFnet network is irc.efnet.org. If you mis-typed it, it would not longer be valid and would not work.

18. When I connect I get a "Not enough user parameters" error?

This can occur if you try to connect to a server but you have not filled in all of the details correctly in the client's setup window. You may need to enter something in both your real name and email address fields.

19. How do I solve the "You haven't registered" error?

This can occur if your IRC client has not logged onto the server yet. Sometimes, if you try to perform an action, such as joining a channel, before a client has completely logged on, you will see this error. You either need to wait until the logon completes or disconnect and try connecting again.

20. What does "Ghosts are not allowed on IRC" mean? What does "You are not welcome on this server" mean?

These mean that you are banned from using a server. Bans can be per-network or per-server. Banning is in one of three forms:

* You are banned specifically. Only you can be responsible for this (if you are using a shared account or dynamic IP addressing, this obviously does not apply). The responsibility lies completely with you and you have no one to complain to.

* Your machine is banned. Chances are, you committed no wrongdoing. Try using another machine on the network if you have one and seeing if you can use that particular IRC server.

* Your whole site is banned (where "site" is a "school", "company", "country" or "provider"). This almost certainly is not your fault. Chances of geting the server-ban lifted are slim. Try using another server.

The most general answer is "use another server", but if it bothers you, try writing to the IRC administrator of that site (type /admin servername). Be polite in explaining your case.

21. What does "Closing Link (No more connections)" mean?

Most servers can only accommodate a certain number of IRC users. This is why they sometimes refuse access to you and close the link at startup. Since servers reserve connections to local usersm you are more often refused when you are far from the server you're trying to connect to. New developments of the IRC protocol (the so called Bounce-line) make it possible that a server auto-magically forwards you to a server that is not as busy and/or more nearby to you thus effectively allowing to connect to the network.

22. What is K-lined? Why can't I connect to certain IRC servers? Why do some servers disconnect me?

Some servers restrict access to local users and might therefore close or not even accept a connection from you. Bad behavior by you or your friends, customers from your provider, or an entire country may also be restricted from using certain servers. In each case, an attempt to connect will result in a response similar to the following:

*** Attempting to connect (irc.network.net)

Local host: cheops (131.69.136.12)

Catch22 You are banned from this server

Closing Link: Catch22[irc.stud.uni.nl] (K-lined)

*** Disconnected

Getting disconnected with the "No authorization" message occurs due to a similar reason. The server does not give your site access. A server administrator can choose which sites can connect to his server via "I-lines" (called invitation lines). Many servers only I-line local sites so you should try to use a server close to you.

23. Can our firewall be blocking my IRC session?

Yes, if you are using IRC from inside a company network, it could very well be blocking IRC connections. In this case, you would have to ask your corporate network managers for access if you are behind a firewall.

24. I have connected to a server but have restricted access?

Servers can give you restricted access (usermode +r) if you're far away from them or if you or somebody from your IP address caused issues in the past. When you have restricted access you cannot be channel operator, you cannot do mode changes and you cannot change nickname but you can chat normally. Read more about this here. The only way to get unrestricted IRC access is to find another (more nearby) IRC server. Being restricted has nothing to do with what IRC client you use.

25. I've got a client installed and I'm connected to a server, now what?

The first step is to get a list of the channels on the network to which you have connected. This is usually done with the "/list" command. Remember that on IRC, all commands start with a "/" and most are one word. Typing /help will get you help information, /names will get you a list of all nicknames, /list will give you a list of channels, and so on. The output of /list is typically something like this:

#hack 21 We are your worst nightmare!
#Nippon 53 Speak Japanese here please?
#nicole 3
#hack 44
#hottub 76 Stay out! boiling catfood.
#mirc 27
#irchelp 17 Ask all your IRC questions here.

Some IRC networks have thousands of channels. The above is just a small example.

In this example "#hack" is a channel name. "#" is the prefix. Following the channel name you will see the number of people on it as well as its topic. Most channel names start with a # but there are other special channel prefixes.

26. What exactly is a channel?

A channel is a room on IRC where group conversations occur. People can join the same channel and see each other. Depending on its topic and time of the day a channel can be VERY crowded. Channels can also be quite chaotic, or calm. Channels can be open to everyone but also closed and private and only open to friends. On the large IRC networks there might be tens of thousands of channels. On smaller networks, there may be a handful. Channels on IRC are dynamic in the sense that anyone can create a new channel, and a channel disappears when the last person on it leaves.

27. How do I join a channel? What do I type after I join? When I'm done, how do I leave?

To join a channel, type /join #channelname. Try "/join #irchelp" or "/join #mirc" to give it a try. Once you get to the channel, you will see people talking. It will probably look like this:

{Avalon} AUUG is on at the same time as LISA this year and is cheaper.

{Barron} backhaul those DS3s to Virginia ;)

{Barron} buy a farm

{FlashPYR} so is .us going to start charging $50/domain, too?

{Barron} or something

{Tolim} oops

You will often come in during the middle of a conversation. Unless you're familiar with the channel you may want to sit and watch it for a minute or two to see what the conversation is about. Nnote that often the channel name has nothing to do with the conversation that goes on on the channel.

To start talking, just type something and press the enter key.

In the channel window that opens when you join a channel you'll see an alphabetical list of people that are on the channel on the right side of the window. Some of them have a @ in front of their name to point out they are the channel operators. A Channel Operator is someone who has control over a specific channel. A Channel Operator can also decide if control is shared or not. The first person to join the channel automatically receives Channel Operator status.

In the channel's title bar you will see the channel's name and perhaps its topic.

If you want to leave a channel, type /part #channelname

28. What are the most basic commands?

All IRC commands start with a "/" character. The forward slash is the default command character.

Commands on IRC are not case sensitive. Anything that does not begin with "/" is assumed to be a message to someone and will be sent to your current channel or to the person you are chatting with in a private chat.

Most IRC clients come with an extensive help file that describes the commands it supports. Don't hesitate to try the /help command.

HELP shows general help or help on the given command.
LIST lists all current channels.
JOIN to join a channel
PART to leave a channel (same as LEAVE)
QUIT exits your IRC session, (same as BYE and EXIT)
NICK changes your nickname
AWAY leaves a message saying you're away or not paying attention
WHOIS displays information about someone
INVITE sends an invitation to another user
KICK gets rid of someone on a channel
TOPIC changes the topic of the channel
ME sends anything about you to a channel or QUERY

/HELP [command] Shows general help or help on the given command.

/LIST [[{flags}] {channel mask}] Lists all current channels.

In the list you will see all channels (see below), except for those that are secret, with their number of users and the topic. The displayed list may be quite long, so you can limit it using flags. "/LIST -MIN n" for instance removes channels with less than 'n' users from the output.

/JOIN {#channel} Sets your current channel to the supplied channel.

Upon entering a channel, you are given useful details about it: a list of users talking in that channel, channel mode settings and the topic. Joining a channel does not cause you to leave your previous channel and you can normally join as many channels as your connection can handle or that the IRC server allows.

/JOIN #mirc

*** Now talking in #mirc

/PART [#channel] Makes you leave a channel. (same as LEAVE)

/PART #mirc

*** You have left #mirc

/QUIT [reason] Exits your IRC session. (Also BYE and EXIT.)

If a reason is supplied, it is displayed to other people on your channels.

/QUIT Lunch Time!

/NICK {nickname} Changes your nickname to whatever you like.

Everyone who wants to talk to you sees this name. Nicknames are limited to 9 characters max. If your intended nickname clashes with someone else's as you enter IRC, you will not be able to enter until you change it to something else. Duplicate nicknames are not allowed; this is enforced by the IRC servers. Under some circumstances, two individuals may temporarily have the same nick but once discovered, both of them will be killed; a nick collision kill.

/NICK Guru

*** Newbie is now known as Guru

/AWAY [away message] Sets your status as away with some info.

Sets a message explaining that you are not currently paying attention to IRC. Whenever someone sends you a MSG or does a WHOIS on you, they automatically see whatever message you have set. Using AWAY with no parameters marks you as no longer being away.

/AWAY Gone to get a cup of coffee.

*** You have been marked as being away

/AWAY

*** You are no longer marked as being away

/WHOIS {nickname} Shows information about someone.

/WHOIS Guru

*** Guru is master@some.network.net (Nuclear free)

*** on channels: @#irchelp #mirc

*** on via server irc.server.net (The best server)

*** Guru is away (making dinner)

/WHOIS Newbie

*** Newbie: No such nickname

/INVITE {nickname} {#channel} Invites another user to a channel you are on.

If you want a friend to join your channel you can invite them. They will see a message such as *** Guru invites you to #channel. This is required if your channel is 'invite only'.

/INVITE Friend #mirc

*** Inviting Friend to #mirc

If you receive an INVITE message, you can type "/JOIN {#channel}".

/KICK {#channel} {nickname} Kicks a user off a given channel.

Well, you guessed it, if there is a way to invite someone on a channel, there is also the ablility to KICK someone out of it. For example ,if a person is behaving in an offensive manner by annoying people or flooding the channel with unwanted information, they can be forced out of the channel. Only 'channel operators' are privileged to use this command.

/KICK #mirc Lamer

*** Lamer has been kicked off channel #mirc by Guru

/TOPIC {#channel} {topic for channel} Changes the channel's topic.

Channels have topics, that indicate the current topic of conversation. You can change this topic on a channel with the TOPIC command.

/TOPIC #mirc Lets discuss OS/2

*** Guru has changed topic to "Lets discuss OS/2"

/ME {action description} Tells people about what you are doing.

At times, you may want to send a description of what you are doing or how you are feeling or just anything concerning you on the current channel or in a query.

/ME slaps newbie with a large trout.

* Guru slaps newbie with a large trout.

The same goal can be achieved towards a specific nickname or channel using:

/DESCRIBE {nickname|#channel} {action description}

29. I'm ready for some less basic commands.

MSG sends a private message
QUERY starts a private conversation
NOTICE sends a private message
NOTIFY informs you when people logging in or out IRC
IGNORE removes output from specific people

/MSG {nickname|channel} {text} Sends a (private) message to specified nickname or channel.

Besides chatting on IRC Channels you can also have private conversations or queries with other people on IRC. On most clients these conversations will be handled by separate window. You can use the /MSG command to send someone a message that only that person can read. If somebody else sends you a message or that person replies to your message a query window icon will pop up informing you somebody wants to talk to you personally.

/MSG Kreet This message can be read by you only.

*Kreet* This message can be read by you only.

In Kreet's screen an icon will pop up with the message you typed; "This message can be read by you only."

If you cannot wait for a reply for someone to message you to open a private window you can use the query command to force your client to open a private conversation window.

/QUERY {nickname} [test] Starts a private conversation with {nickname} and forces a separate window to open.

This command differs from the MSG command only by the fact that it is used to start a private conversation. All text you type that would normally be sent to your chat partner if you used MSG now displays in an immediately opened private window 'to your chat partner' on your screen and is sent to the other person as well.

/NOTICE {nickname|#channel} {text} Sends a private message to the specified nickname or #channel.

The NOTICE command is just another way to send messages to other people. But, unlike MSGs, NOTICEs will never open a separate window 'to' the other person. It should be seen as a sort of whispering. It is recommended that robots or other automatons on IRC use notices (contrary to messages) to send information to people. You should never automatically (as by remote events or commands) send a message or notice in response to a notice sent to you.

/NOTIFY [nickname|on|off] Toggles the notify function or adds or removes nickname to or from the notify list.

As you start to meet people on IRC, you will want to add certain nicknames to your notify list such that you will be notified when they sign on or off IRC.

/NOTIFY wug marl

*** Added wug to Notify list
*** Added marl to Notify list

/NOTIFY

*** wug is on IRC
*** resi is on IRC
*** marl is not on IRC
*** kreet is on IRC

/IGNORE [nickname|user@host] Ignore all contact from the specified people.

The day will come when you decide not to see or hear a specific person on your screen. This can be achieved using the ignore command. If people are flooding channels with useless text or they are otherwise harassing you, a wise response is to ignore those person. Ignore can be set to a nickname or by specifying a user@host format. You can use all kind of wildcards.

/IGNORE looser

*** Added looser to Ignore list

/IGNORE

*** Ignore is ON
*** Ignoring: *.*@*.unicomp.net *!*ap@159.148.109.88 *!*fishy@*.interaccess.com looser

/IGNORE looser

*** Removed looser from Ignore list

30. What language should I speak? How do I behave on IRC?

The most widely understood and spoken language on IRC is English. However, as IRC is used in many different countries, English is by no means the only language. If you want to speak some language other than English, eg. with your friends, go to a separate channel and set the topic to indicate that. Similarly, you should check the topic when you join a channel to see if there are any restrictions about language. On a non-restricted channel, please speak a language everybody can understand. If you want to do otherwise, change channels and set the topic accordingly.

It is not necessary to greet everybody on a channel personally. Usually one "Hello" or equivalent is enough. Also, don't expect everybody to greet you back. On a channel with 20 people that would mean one screenful of hellos. It makes sense not to greet everyone, in order not to be rude to the rest of the channel. If you must say hello to somebody you know, do it with a private message. The same applies to goodbyes. Also note that using your client's facilities to automatically say hello or goodbye to people is extremely poor etiquette. Nobody wants to receive auto-greets. They are not only obviously automatic but, while you may think you are being polite, you are actually conveying yourself as insincere. If somebody wants to be auto-greeted when they join a channel, they will auto-greet themselves.

Remember, people on IRC form their opinions about you only by your actions, writings and comments, so think before you type. If you use offensive words, you'll be frowned upon. Do not "dump" (send large amounts of unwanted information) to a channel or user. This is likely to get you kicked off the channel or killed off from IRC. Dumping causes network "burps", causing connections to go down because servers cannot handle the large amount of traffic. Other prohibited actions include:

* Harassing another user. Harassment is defined as behavior towards another user with the purpose of annoying them.

* Annoying a channel with constant beeping. (Therefore most clients cannot beep at all)

* Any behavior reducing the functionality of IRC as a chat medium.

31. What is a channel operator? What is an IRC operator?

A channel operator (ChanOp or Op) is someone with a "@" by their nickname in a channel's names list, or a "@" before the channel name in a /whois or /uwho output. Channel operators are the 'rulers' of a particluar channel. This means they can kick you out of their channel for any reason. If you don't like this, you complain to them or start your own channel and become a channel operator there yourself.

An IRC operator (IRCop) is someone who maintains a server or part of the IRC network. They cannot fix channel problems. They cannot kick someone out of a channel for you. They also cannot /kill (disconnect a user from their IRC server temporarily) someone just because you gave the offender channel operator privileges and said offender kicked you off. IRCops have better things to do than interfere in channel affairs.

32. How do I create a new channel?

A channel is automatically created as soon as the first person joins it. If you join a channel and you find your name as the only one there, you just created that channel. Channels on IRC are dynamic in the sense that anyone can create a new channel, and a channel disappears when the last person leaves it.

33. What are good channels to try while using IRC?

Every IRC network has its own set of popular channels. The only way to know what these are is to connect to that network and /list the currently active channels. Most clients will display the list of channels in a new window and you can change its display to sort channels by the number of users. Just join one of those channels to find out what happens on them. Besides chat channels, there also exist channels specialized towards helping other users. Examples are #help, #windows, #irchelp, and #mirc.

To get a list of all available channels with their names and topics, type /list. To see only the most active channels type /list -min 20 which will show you channels with 20 or more members. You can also do this for smaller numbers. Even very crowded channels can be silent, so if you join a channel and don't hear much talking, it may be because you joined, but just because the people on that channel are doing other things.

34. Someone is using my nickname, can anyone do anything about it?

Some networks support registered nicknames. This means that they allow you to set a password on a nickname so that you own it. Only the person who knows that password will be able to use it. Some networks may not support this, which means that if someone takes your nickname while you are not on IRC, you can message them to ask for them to give it back, but you cannot demand it, nor will IRC operators /kill for nickname ownership normally.

35. Someone is using my channel, can anyone do anything about it?

There are, literally, millions of possible channel names, so if someone is on your usual channel, just go to another. You can /msg them and ask for them to leave, but you can't force them to leave.

36. Help! Someone kicked/banned me from a channel. Who do I complain to?

The answer to this question is the current channel operators and them alone. Given the dynamic nature of channels, channel operators do not need to have a reason to kick you off. They decide what goes on in the channel. It is their channel. Complaining either to IRC operators or to the system administrators about being kicked or banned from a channel will not result in action. IRC operators do not meddle with channel politics - that's the job of channel operators. Proper IRC netiquette is to keep IRC issues within IRC, because system admins have little time to deal with IRC issues and many would rather shut it down rather than deal with problems arising from it. If you should get banned or kicked from a channel, you are always free to start your own channel and decide what is appropriate content there. Imagine channels as houses. The owner of the house can decide to share ownership with someone else and can decide to prevent any individual from entering his house. In your own house, you call the shots. Feel free to create your own channel, and set up your own rules for it.

37. There aren't any channel operators on my channel, now what?

Channel operators are the owners of their respective channels. If you are a channel operator, keep this in mind when giving out channel operator powers. Do not give out channel operator status to everyone. This causes the possibility of mass-kicking or otherwise harassing by unknown ops and the channel can be left without any channel operators. However, always make sure to give ops to enough people so that all of the channel operators don't unexpectedly disappear and leave the channel without any operators. If no ops are on your channel you have one option. You can ask everyone to leave and rejoin the channel. This is a good way to get channel operator status back. This does not work on large channels or ones with bots, for obvious reasons. On some networks, you can register a channel so that you own it and can maintain control over it as far as who gets channel operator status and how that privilege is governed.

38. What is a "bot"?

A "bot" is short for "robot". It is normally a script run from a client or a separate program (in perl, C, and sometimes more obscure languages). Bots are normally not needed on IRC. A bot generally tries to "protect" a channel from takeovers or performs other functions. It is important to know that some IRC servers ban all bots. Some IRCOps ban domains if you run a bot on their server (See the segment on K: lines). On IRC you will find a lot of people with a love/hate attitude towards bots. Some bots provide useful features and can be entertaining. Contrary to these bots, you will find many bots performing useless 'carekeeping' of channels, harassing and boring people and sometimes created with the sole purpose to produce garbage. You can imagine that these bots are disliked by the IRC community.

In this context it is good to advise you to never, ever take bot code, .ini files, or strange commands from someone and run it without exactly understanding what it does. If you feel you just have to run a bot, at least learn the programming.

39. What is NickServ?

Some networks support a nickname registration service called NickServ. This allows users to register and own nicknames.

40. What is ChanServ?

Some networks support a channel registration service called ChanServ. This allows users to register and own channels.

41. Help, I get disconnected after the LIST command.

If you use the LIST command, the server generates a list of all channels and quickly sends that list to you. But, because the data throughput is finite, the entire output of the LIST command is queued in a buffer on the server. At some point that buffer is overrun, and the server, detecting this ('reached maxsendq'), disconnects you. This mechanism is designed to disconnect people who generate more characters per second than any 'normal' person uses for normal conversations. It is a server protection mechanism, but unfortunately the server does not recognize that the data stream you caused is simply the result of your harmless LIST command, and disconnects you.

In most IRC clients, you can filter the channels list to show only channels with a minimum and a maximum number of people. You can also specify a text string so that your client will only list channels with that string in their name or topic. However, for the problem described, this may not always help. Some servers always send you the entire channels list and your client takes care of the filtering. So, asking for a partial list to prevent you from disconnecting won't make any difference. It is unfortunate, but there is nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. It is just one of the all-too-many IRC oddities. Try using some other server, as many are more forgiving.

42. I've done a /whois on myself and notice that my real name shows up in parentheses. How can I change this?

In the setup of your IRC client, simply enter a fake real name.

43. What is a netsplit? Why does everybody keep signing on and off? What does it mean when I see: *** NickName has quit IRC?

Netsplits are (unfortunately) a routine part of IRC life. The above message means that NickName, who was on a channel with you, was on a different server from you and this server split off from the part of the net you are on.

A  --------------  B ---- C

|                  |

D                  E

Lets assume a small IRC network where A, B, C, D and E are servers. Let's say that you are on server D, and server A splits from server B. In this case, you will see all users on the servers B, C and E, "sign off". On large IRC networks and crowded channels you will see a huge amount of people 'quiting IRC'. When A and B rejoin, you will see users from B, C and E "rejoin" the channel you were on.

Note that netsplits are all from the point of view of the user. After a netsplit rejoins people might ask where you went -- because from their perspective, you split off. The only thing you can do during a netsplit is wait for the net to merge itself. Changing your server during a netsplit is a Bad Idea, because you are likely to have your nickname collided. A "split" often occurs due to faults in the underlying physical network. It can also occur due to other reasons, such as if the machine on which the IRC server runs crashes, or if it is too overloaded to handle connections as happens on bigger nets, or if an IRC operator willfully disrupts the connection between two servers to achieve better routing (server - server connections).

44. What is a Nick Collision Kill?

After a netsplit, a net-join begins and on both halves of the merging network, and people that existed with the same nicknames can be killed. This can happen frequently with popular nicknames. This phenomena is called a Nick Collision. As soon as a Nick Collision is detected (in general) both persons involved will be disconnected (killed) from their IRC servers. Nick Collisions can be caused on purpose by people who just want to harrass others or try to take over their channel. In general, this behavior is considered very abusive and can easily lead to a K-line.

45. What is a Server-op?

After a netsplit, during the net-join process, servers on both sides of the split try to update all kinds of information they may have missed. New users, their nicknames, the channels they are on and most of the channel settings are exchanged. The servers involved in the split will also make sure on both sides of the split on all channels the same channel operators are set. This process is called server-opping. Server-ops show like:

*** irc.server.net sets mode: +ooo Nick1 Nick2 Nick3

Server-ops are famous for its use in malicious behaviour. People can use net-splits to get operator status on a channel on one side of the split and on the moment of net-join de-op the rightful channel operators. The Undernet has an improved server-server protocol which prevents server-op abuse as well as channel desynchs and intentional nick collides.

46. What is an Ident server? Why am I unidentified and why does it matter?

An ident server is normally a kind of nameserver, usually on large organizational or corporate networks, that guarantee your Identity. Since many users connect to IRC from their home computers, they sometimes have to run their own ident server. Some IRC clients come with such a server built into them to help you. IRC servers can do perform an ident request to your ident server and expect a standard repsonse. More and more IRC servers require you to be identified in some way, and they will disconnect you if you are not identified. You can check if you're properly identified by doing a /whois on yourself. The first line in the reply should NOT contain a ~ (tilde) before your userid. If you have a ~ in it, try activating the ident server built into your IRC client or use a separate ident server and restart your IRC client and see if it helps.

47. What are Channel and User Modes?

Channels can have additional constraints, which can be set by the MODE command. To understand this, recall that the first person that joined a channel effectively creates it and is, at least initially, in charge of the channel. They become a Channel Operator or chanop or 'op'. They can set constraints on the channel and make other people chanops as they wish. The command that allows channel operators to change channel modes, or any user to change their personal mode is:

/MODE {channel|nickname} [{+|-}{modechars} [{parameters}]]

A + or - sign determines whether the mode should be added or deleted.

Channels can be moderated, secret, private, with a limited number of users, anonymous, invite-only, topic-limited, with a list of banned users...

/mode {channel} +b {nick|address} ban somebody by nickname or address mask (nick!account@host)

/mode {channel} +i channel is invite-only

/mode {channel} +l {number} channel is limited, with {number} users allowed maximal

/mode {channel} +m channel is moderated, only chanops and others with 'voice' can talk

/mode {channel} +n external /MSGs to channel are not allowed

/mode {channel} +p channel is private

/mode {channel} +s channel is secret

/mode {channel} +t topic limited, only chanops may change it

/mode {channel} +o {nick} makes {nick} a channel operator

/mode {channel} +v {nick} gives {nick} a voice

The MODE command also allows you to modify your personal parameters, your "user mode". You can check your usermode with the command "/MODE {yournick}". Note that user mode +i may be the default on some servers, in order to protect privacy of users. This should not be seen as a problem, since any user can change his/her personal mode from whatever defaults a server may set.

/mode {yournick} +r sets your access to restricted. You can't do a -r mode change

/mode {yournick} +i makes yourself invisible to anybody that does not know your nickname

/mode {yournick} +o gives IRC-Operator status, can only be set by IRC-ops with OPER

/mode {yournick} +s lets you receive server notices

/mode {yournick} +w makes you receive wallops; messages to IRC-Ops (abused and deprecated)

Note that different networks may support different types of modes.

48. What do these Channel and User Modes mean?

A channel is PUBLIC by default. Anyone can notice a public channel, see its users and join the conversation. In a list of channels you can see a public channel's topic. When someone is on a public channel, he can be easily found by all other users as long as his personal user mode is not set to invisible (see below).

An INVITE-ONLY channel can only be joined if you are invited by one of its channel operators.

PRIVATE channels turn up normally in the channels list. People can see you are on a private channel somewhere, but they can never find out on -which- private channel you are unless they search all (private) channels by brute force. With the names command your nickname will not show up, but it will with the /who {channel_name} command unless you hide by setting your personal user mode to 'invisible'.

SECRET channels do not show up in a channels list and you cannot find out its topic unless you join it. If you are on a secret channel, someone who is not on the same channel can't see that you are there, regardless what your personal user mode is set to. Your name does not show up in a names list of people on IRC if you are on secret channels only.

Your user mode can be set to INVISIBLE meaning that other people cannot find you by searching on IRC unless they know your exact nickname. No (wildcarded) search on you by the /who command on your IP Address or real name will deliver your current nickname or other likewise info to others.

When your user mode is restricted you do not have the power normal channel operator have on channels (you can't use /mode, /kick, ..etc.) and you cannot change nickname (/nick). But you can chat normally.

49. What server do you advise me to use?

Try to choose a server that is close to you. As a rule of thumb, servers that are close geographically are also close network-wise (which is what matters) but this rule of thumb is not always true. If in doubt, ask some people from the same area what servers they use. The larger the distance to the server, the larger the chance it refuses you or gives you only restricted access.

50. In other IRC FAQs and help files I see more and sometimes totally different commands and problems explained, how come?

This FAQ focuses on situations a typical IRC user may face. Depending on the IRC client you are using, or even the type of operating system you are on, you may come across other commands or features that may or may not apply to your situation.

51. Where can I get more information?

You can find more information about IRC on Wikipedia, on the mIRC website, and at irchelp.org.

The Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Protocol is explained and defined in the Request for Comments (RFC) number 1459 written by the founder of IRC J. Oikarinen and D. Reed. This RFC is available here.

Read how IRC was started by Jarkko Oikarinen and his views on its development.

On IRC, you will find several channels intended to help you with simple as well as more difficult problems. Most IRC networks have their own help channels which you can find in the MOTD (Message Of The Day) that you see when you first connect to a server. Try joining those channels for help. You can also try joining #irchelp, which is a common help channel. Please remember, we are all volunteers on these channels, giving our own time to help other users.

52. Credits

I am fully aware that a lot of the information found in this file can be found in the same or similar form in several other IRC releated FAQ's already. I have tried to combine the best of worlds by focusing on the most common issues and questions. I hope I was succesful. All information contained in this file is based on the work and time various people invested by answering questions in the Usenet alt.irc newsgroups and in the already existing IRC related FAQ's. I especially want to mention Helen Trillian Rose, Nicolas Pioch and Mandar M. Mirashi for the time and effort they spend on their IRC ambassador job! Of course I am the only one responsible for all omissions and mistakes in this file, but I hide behind the usual disclaimers...

Tjerk Vonck