IRC: Discovering the Prehistory of Chatting

At present, the application market is saturated with instant messaging platforms created with the function of allowing consumers to communicate with each other as quickly as possible. All these applications have something in common, and they all had an ancestor, IRC, a system that very few know and is recognized as the beginning of the chats on the network.

All in the footsteps of a great evolution

Exactly 31 years ago since the creation of the IRC, a system dubbed the true father of online conversations. These acronyms from English ‘Internet Realy Chat’, were created by Finnish Jarkko Oikarinen in 1988 while working for the University of Oulu. Oikarinen began to create IRC when he was trying to improve the messaging system used in the University itself.

As Oikarinen himself confirmed, “the first implementation to try to solve the university’s problem was the IRC.” Once the 10 users were reached, he began recruiting friends who activated servers at the universities of Tampere and Helsinki. After this mini expansion, Oikarinen tried to contact some acquaintances from other countries, but this task was halted because connections from Finland did not work with other countries.

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Years later, Oikarinen managed to add IRC users to the project on the other side of the Atlantic, specifically from the universities of Denver and Oregon. After these great movements, IRC began to grow by leaps and bounds and according to its creator, “there were many people who started running IRC and the number of servers increased rapidly.” It should be noted that this system did not require an installation, it was only necessary to register if the user wanted to keep the same name on the screen or search the zip code or postal code and use it.

The operation of the IRC system was very basic, since it allowed the user to hold two private conversations, by using plain text. “The IRC system was based on an extremely innovative protocol, since it allowed real-time communication between several users or through two private conversations. This used in plain text and the actions were sent in the form of text orders by means of a symbol and a command ”, as confirmed by María Soler, engineer in Computer Science and Multimedia by the URL.

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The truth is that IRC suffered a fall with the entry of the new millennium, the evolution of technology and the unlimited development of instant messaging systems. As Josep Lluís Micó, Professor of Journalism at URL-BLanquerna states, “commercial services offered a sexier appearance, they did not have such a freak image and linked to what unclear uses, in addition to offering a fast and efficient service”.

Although more than 30 years ago the creation and development of the IRC system, there are still people who continue to connect to it from many countries around the world. It is true that he no longer possesses the great activity he achieved at his best and that the advancement of technology makes him less attractive, but at least we have the hope that the father of the chat is still alive.