We think Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is great, and beats other forms of online communication like AIM, MSN, and Yahoo without a doubt. We have compiled this list to illustrate why:
Everything needed to run a full IRC network is available under the GPL License. Open Source IRC clients like xchat, irssi, and bitchx; IRC server software like Evilnet Nefarious, and Inspircd, and finally the services software that runs upon it like X3 and GNUWorld.
Why does this matter? If you don't agree with how AOL runs their IM servers, what are you gonna do about it? But, if you think you could run an IRC network better, you can make changes, and even start your own.
Most IM tools don't offer any kind of encryption. However many IRC servers (such as afternet) support SSL encryption, so you can bitch about your boss without fear he is listening in.
Because of IRC's open nature, you can run whatever software you want to connect. There are literally thousands of programs capable of connecting to IRC, from bots to clients. You aren't tied to one IM client that you don't like. And you aren't generating profit for the owner of the IM client by being subjected to their advertisements.
Tired of the A/S/L chat on AIM? Each channel on IRC has its own culture, so you can easily find the people who want to talk about the same things as you.
Because IRC started as a UNIX tool for geeks and university mainframe users, IRC has a tradition of technical chat. You can often find groups of people talking about anything from Linux and the software that runs on it, to designing games, to hobby electronics.
Finding new friends who can help you learn and grow on AIM is nearly impossible. All the conversations take place between two people who already know each other. In contrast, on IRC most conversations happen out in public, so you can get to know people even just by watching. By becoming a regular of a channel, you meet all sorts of other members who you would not have known to IM directly.
Chat goes on all the time on IRC, about many different subjects. Often, you will find people discussing topics you didn't know existed, or discussing a position you don't agree with. Just hanging out on IRC can lead to a much broader understanding of the world.
Shy? Not sure what to say? Some people just don't feel comfortable IMing friends just to listen. However on IRC, you can watch other people chat if you don't feel like talking, you might even learn something while you do!
Nothing facilitates people building a trust relationship over the internet quite like IRC. Because of the inherent structure and culture on IRC, you can really get to know others and grow to be friends. Over time, regular IRCers grow large networks of people they know and trust. Try doing THAT over AIM!
<digg> AIM, YIM, MSN, etc are all run by corporations ultimately out to make a profit. They don't care about freedom of speech, freedom to gather, discussions of politics, etc. Anything that disrupts their world will simply be banned off their network. Don't like it? tough, it's their network. IRC, however, is mostly run by individuals and groups not for profit. And if all the IRC networks sold out, you and some friends could download the Open Source software and start your own IRC network.