I discovered Internet Relay Chat (IRC) back in the early days of the Internet. Back then, it was one of the primary means to chat with people from all over the world.
When I played UT, we had our own channel on Quakenet, and so did all the other clans and players. Today, it appears not as big as before anymore, but it is still there, and many companies use it for communication or support.
Mozilla for example has its own IRC server that it runs -- irc.mozilla.org -- that provides you with official channels for Firefox, Thunderbird and other products or purposes.
If you have never heard about IRC before, let me give you a short introduction. The core is made up of servers, like the one that Mozilla uses. Each server houses a number of channels, which are like chat rooms more or less, only that you are not limited to chatting, but can also transfer files and do other things here.
One of the problems associated with IRC is that you only know what is happening in a channel when you are connected to it. While it is possible to run bots 24/7, which may not only record all public conversations but also make available other features such as protecting the channel or file sharing, it is usually not something that regular users know how to do or want to do.
IRCCloud is a service that is currently in beta. You can request an invite to try the service out. It offers a web-based IRC client, and also mobile apps for Android or iOS that you can use.
Free vs. Pro: Limited accounts are automatically disconnected after 2 hours. In addition, they cannot access password protected servers, and can only connect to a maximum of 2 networks at the same time. Pro accounts stay permanently connected to IRC, do not have disconnects have inactivity, allow you to connect to as many networks as you like, access password protected networks, and provide you with access to an unlimited chat history. This comes at the price of $4 per month.
What sets it apart from local solutions such as MIRC is the fact that you will stay connected to the channels you are in even if you shut down your computer or close the app on your device.
So, everything that is happening is recorded for you, and you have a 24/7 channel presence as well.
The web-based client is really easy to use. Once you have set up your account, you may connect to a network by selecting it from a list, or entering its hostname directly.
Here you can also list channels that you want to join -- password protected channels are supported -- or run commands, or add a server or NickServ password to the connection process.
All networks and channels that you have joined are displayed on the right. Active channels are highlighted so that they can be easily identified.
As far as past channels are concerned, you can still access them to look up the conversation history of the channel, archive them to move them out of the way, delete them outright which deletes the channel history as well, or rejoin them if you like.
The web-based client ships with a set of settings that you may find interesting. While it does not offer Mirc-like preferences, it lets you highlight words or colorize nicknames for example, or show usermode symbols such as @ or +.
It also makes available a set of keyboard shortcuts that you can make use of to quickly switch channels, sending private messages to other users, or to complete channel names or nicknames using auto-complete.
IRCCloud worked pretty well during tests. One of the issues that I encountered was that it did not provide me with a list of channels, or at least, I could not figure out how to display it. While that is not a problem if you know your destinations, it could very well be one if you are connected to a new network and do not know where to go to get started.
The main advantage the service offers over regular connections is that it will stay connected to the selected channels even if you go offline. While that is also achieved with channel bots, which provide additional powerful features that some users may like, it is less complicated to setup and maintain.
If you hang out on IRC channels regularly, for instance on a company or development channel, then you may want to take a look at the service to test it out.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.