The acronym "IRC" means Internet Relay Chat. IRC is different from other chatting systems like AIM and ICQ in that it's intended for conversation within a whole group of people, rather than one on one. However, IRC also fully supports private conversations between two people.
IRC conversations happen in meeting rooms, often called "channels" for historical reasons, accessible to people from all over the world.
IRC is not a unified service like for example ICQ. It consists of many different networks, most of which have servers (dedicated computers) all over the world accessible through the Internet. Individuals use Snak to connect to a particular IRC network via a server. The largest of the IRC networks have more than 100.000 participants and it is estimated that at any given time there is about two million people using IRC across the various networks.
With Snak you can have simultaneous connections to as many networks as you want.
There are many IRC servers, but they are not all connected to each other. They are organized into different networks, the largest of which are EFnet and Undernet. All servers on a given IRC network exchange messages but do not bridge to other networks.
Some networks are regional like OZnet (Australia) and BrasNet (Brasil), others, like EFnet and Undernet have servers all over the world. All the servers on the same network carry the same channels. The channels are the virtual meeting rooms that you can join.
Most networks have thousands of channels, each focused on a geographical location, like #england or #boston or subject, like #soccer or #cars. All channel members see the text that is typed into the channel. This makes it possible to have a real-time conversation with people all over the world.
Brief history of IRC
The following chapter comes from the book "The IRC survival guide" by Stuart Harris.
Oulu, a quiet university town on the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland, was the unlikely birthplace of what is now a computer network serving most of the world and hundreds of thousand of users. It was 1988. Jarkko Oikarinen, a second-year student of electrical engineering and information technology, got a summer job in the university’s computing center. In a mid-1994 interview for The IRC survival guide he recalled:
It was one of the usual university summer jobs, where you are mostly supposed to learn new things, and nobody expects you to get anything significant done… I was doing some programming for a BBS system that I had started in the University (OuluBox, it’s still there … telnet tolsun.oulu.fi and log on as box), and the goal was to develop the BBS software into a better one. The chat system used in the BBS before was MUT (Multi-User Talk), developed by Jukka Pihl, who gave me lots of idea and support during the long period of IRC development, as well as Heikki Putkonen, who was (and is) working in the Department of Information Processing Science. And was at that time giving guidance to my summer work.
I learned to do some socket programming during the summer, mostly from a xerox copy or a xerox copy of some kind of BSD4.3 IPC networking manual, which Risto Tynkkyne, [who] had just returned from work in the states, had with him and I managed to get my hands on. I don’t think he knows how useful those copies have been.
Only one part of the new BBS got somewhat usable and that was the "chat" part, called IRC … The summer job ended in the autumn, but my IRC development continued for a couple of years, delaying my graduation for a year or so … I considered the time well spent; I learned a multitude of things during those years.
IRC spread quickly to Tampere and Helsinki in South Finland, but it was some years before it went international. Oikarinen got an account on the legendary ai.ai.mit.edu machine and used it to disseminate his ideas. Pretty much as soon as it became technically possible to connect servers in Boston and Oulu, the first hook-up was made – next it was Denver, then Oregon, next stop The World.
In the early days of IRC, channels had no evocative names like #romance or #football. All the channels were just numbers, and to this day, a die-hard bunch of Finns still maintain a channel called #42.
Oikarinen admits that he never visualized IRC as a global chat forum when he was developing it. Naturally, he’s pleased it turned out that way – what young engineering graduate wouldn’t be gratified to see his summer project turn into a worldwide meeting place – but he’s not necessarily pleased with the "politics" that have grown up around IRC management. Oikarinen still logs into IRC occasionally – yes, to #42 actually – and his philosophical approach is a lesson to all IRC users. He sees through the clutter of arguments about how to run IRC, and concentrates on the positive:
People get to meet other around the world, by first meeting each other on IRC, and then later in real life. I also know many people who met first through IRC and then got married and are living happily. I myself have met lots of nice people from many countries through IRC, people I definitely would not have had a chance of meeting otherwise.
I have attended some IRC meetings, and have always found it very interesting to meet the people typing on the other terminals and I have learned that the impression you get through the keyboard is often very different from the one in real life. Which one is the right one is of course a matter of opinion.
Etiquette on IRC
People on IRC form their opinions about you only by your actions, messages and comments, so it is important to think before typing. Offensive behavior is frowned upon, just like in real life.
It's not necessary to greet everybody on a channel personally when you come in, or when they join the channel after you. Usually one "Hello!" or equivalent is enough, and not everybody will greet you back. On a channel with 100 people that would mean several screenfuls of hellos. It's sensible not to greet, in order not to be rude to the rest of the channel. If you want to say hello to somebody you know, it can be done with a private message. The same applies to goodbyes.
Also note that using the event response feature, or an Action, to automatically say hello or goodbye to people is poor etiquette. Automatic greetings are not only obviously automatic, but they are also insincere and interfere with the personal environment of the recipient.
Avoid sending large amounts of unwanted information to a channel or user. This is likely to result in a kick out of the channel or a swift disconnect of the IRC connection.
Never take offense if somebody appears to ignore your messages. There are many technical reasons for a lack of response, among which is the possibility that he or she may not even be looking at the screen at the moment.
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. To speak some other language than English, (for example with some friends), the right thing to do is to go to a separate channel and set the topic to indicate which language to use. Anybody can create a new, private channel where they can speak whatever language they want.
Please check the topic before speaking to see if there are any restrictions about language. On a non-restricted channel, please speak a language everybody can understand.
There is remarkably little tolerance for foreign languages on IRC channels, and with good reason. For example, to practice a language like Spanish there is a large number of Spanish speaking channels you can go to. It is not good behavior to go to an English speaking channel and start to speak in Spanish or any other language.
Peoples spelling mistakes or poor grammar should not be criticized. Nobody can work at a computer keyboard in a "live" situation without errors, and the person being criticized may not be fluent in the language being used, or even marginally literate.
Many channels frown on excessive use of color or use of color at all. Colored messages often cause problems for people that have a background color set up. Black is very popular for example.
If you have a question to ask the channel, do not ask if you can ask the question! Just ask it, and if someone feels like answering you'll get an answer. If not, then please do not keep repeating the question. They heard you the first time.
If you heed this advice it is much more likely you will have a good time on IRC.
Snak is distributed as a single file, called Snak.dmg which contains the program and all its support files in compressed form. Double click on the dmg file to open it. A disk appears on your desktop which can be opened. Simply copy the Snak application to your application folder and run it.
Besides the Snak application there is a "Enable ident" folder on the disk. In order to connect to some IRC servers it may be necessary to install this tool on your machine. If it is necessary, the IRC server will tell you, and the folder can be disregarded unless necessary . There is more information on this subject in the troubleshooting section.
Snak will make a folder in the Application Support folder, inside the Library folder. This is where it stores, among other things, the many sample scripts that can be explored and used.
How to buy Snak
Snak is shareware. This means it may be used and evaluated for 30 days at no charge. Unlimited usage requires a license, which costs $29 for a single-user. The single-user license key may be used on as many computers as you want, provided they are only used by you or your family.
The license never expires. It covers free updates to all new versions released for two years after the purchase. To upgrade to newer versions after two years, the license has to be renewed at a reduced rate.
Click the Buy Now button from the splash screen to buy a single-user license directly from inside the program. This is the fastest and easiest way to remove the limitations without any delay. The license key is transmitted directly to the program right away so there is no wait and no need to manually enter the license key.
To purchase a site license or multiple single-user licenses please use this secure web server or press the buttons below to purchase a single user license:
Single-user license $29.00:
The license key is sent in an email when the payment has been processed. This can take up to 8 hours depending on the time of day. Except when the Buy Now option is used, this license key must be entered into the program to complete the registration.
A license can also be bought by telephone by calling the Kagi Shareware payment service at +1 (510) 658-5244 to place an order.
If the license key is lost it can be retrieved at any time by using the form on the Contact page.
The site license permits the use of Snak on an unlimited number of machines with an unlimited number of users, at a single geographical site, like within a university, or a branch office.
To include Snak on a CD, please let me know first. Only the unmodified dmg file must be distributed, and if the CD is sold, it must be made clear to the users that buying the CD does not mean that they have also bought a license to the programs on the CD.
Entering the license key
If you use the Buy Now option from inside the program you don't need to enter the license key. That is done automatically once the payment has been accepted. You will however receive an email with the license key as well so that you can register the program again if you reinstall the operating system or something similar.
To enter the license key, go to the Edit menu and use the Enter License Key… menu item to bring up this dialog:
If the program can't match the entered email address and key when you press OK, a message will be displayed briefly and you can correct the information and try again.
The length of the key is 25 characters, and it consists of 5 groups of 5 characters between. All letters are in uppercase.
If you release your license key to the public or allow it to be used by others (except your family, as mentioned above), it will mean financial damage to me and it will impede future development efforts.
If I find the license key is being illegally distributed, Snak will reject the key and you will have to re-register. Your payment will be refunded.
If you have an old license key and would like to renew it at the reduced rate, please press the Update Old Key button. That will bring up a dialog where you can enter the old key to get access to the reduced rate option.