An illustration of a bearded man with a computer monitor in front of him with the image of a penguin
By Érico Andrei

A Nostalgic Journey Through IRC

So, I recently stumbled upon this post by Daniel Stenberg, the genius behind curl. It got me all nostalgic, and I thought of writing about the importance of IRC in my "Internet life".

Stenberg mentions how IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was birthed in 1988 at the University of Oulu, and within a year, it already connected 40 servers globally. This was a very big number, as we are talking about an era before the term 'web' become synonymous with the Internet.

The Early Days

Back in '94, I was hired to be a computer lab tutor. The best part? Unrestricted Internet access. No one had a clue what the Internet was back then. No web, no websites—just good ol' Telnet and some IRC clients.

EFNet was the place to be. I was glued to channels like #brazil and #soccer. Man, I chatted so much that my grades took a nosedive. I was online during Senna's funeral and during the FIFA World Cup '94. The only reason I wasn't on IRC during the final World Cup match was because the lab was closed.

IRC was more than just chat rooms; it was a community. We, the Brazilians on EFNet, even organized an in-person meetup in July '94, which we cheekily called "IRContro."

My first-ever coding project related to the Internet? Tweaking Eggdrop, an early IRC bot.

But, trying to explain IRC to my family was like talking to a wall. My mom could not grasp the concept of "talking" to someone on the other side of the world.

But then, a Brazilian soap opera came to the rescue.

The Brazilian Wave

Suddenly, the "Explode coração" soap opera made the Internet cool and understandable. More Brazilians started hopping onto IRC and after a while, the leading Brazilian channels transitioned from EFNet to the more welcoming, and Brazilian-Portuguese-friendly, BRASnet.

BRASnet was my virtual tour guide to Brazil. I made friends who invited me over, and whenever I could, I'd jet off to another state.

But nothing lasts forever, right? IRC started to fade when ICQ (and then all the other messengers) came into the picture. It was a slow goodbye, but eventually, IRC became a thing of the past.

The Open Source Chapter

Fast forward to my open-source days, and guess what? IRC was still kicking. Freenode was the hub, especially for the Zope and Plone communities. From 2003 to 2014, IRC was basically part of my job. I even set up a ZNC bouncer to catch all the messages I might miss because I had to sleep.

But then, life happened. I moved to a more corporate gig, and IRC got shelved. Again.

The Final Encore

In 2019, I circled back to the Plone community and noticed IRC was kinda on life support. People were trying out Gitter, Zulip and Slack, but it just wasn't the same. The Freenode takeover in 2021 was the final straw.

Now we're on Discord and Slack, and they're cool and all, but given the choice? I'd pick the no-frills, text-based IRC any day.