IRC Is Still Kicking 32 Years Later
IRC is a standard Internet protocol that allows people to run their own text-based chat servers with its own selection of channels organized by topic (for example, a channel called #music for talking about music). With no centralized authority over who can host a server, people are free to switch servers at will or even start their own.
IRC started in Finland in 1988 and soon became an international internet sensation. It allowed people from all over the world to share historic news, find romance, or talk about almost any topic with like-minded enthusiasts in real time.
Today, there are still over 2,000 IRC servers and almost 500 IRC networks (groups of affiliated servers) operating worldwide. However, the number of people using them has dropped dramatically (some say 60 percent) from its peak around 2003-05.
Those numbers can be deceptive, though. Peak usage of IRC also coincided with peak use of the network to trade pirated software (“warez”), so not all of those people were using IRC to chat in the first place.
Still, many people have abandoned IRC since the early ’00s due to the rise of the myriad competing online social spaces. Web forums, instant messaging (like AIM), social media, SMS text messaging, collaborative services (like Slack and Discord), and even 3D worlds and games (like Second Life and Minecraft) have all contributed to IRC’s dive in popularity.
Even though IRC’s population is only a fraction of what it used to be, a core group of people who just want basic text chat are still on there chatting to this day.