During my commute a few days ago, I read about chat.sr.ht. It's a service that simplifies using IRC. As a teenager, I've hoped on and off from IRC channels without ever fully appreciating the technology. It was mostly a mean to ask people about a programming question, get the answer, and move on. Fast forward to now, I can't help but notice how communities are built on closed platforms like Discord. And while such platforms are incredible from a software and user experience standpoint, they're closed. You can't host your own Discord and invite your friends. We don't control their pricing model, nor their financial stability. We can't know what will become of the platform a year from now, 10 years from now.

Of course all I'm saying is to take with a grain of salt. A platform being closed isn't necessarily a bad thing. And it's a slippery slope to think that it will lead to it being different than what it is today in a few years. However, that was enough to make me want to dive into IRC again. Now that I found out about chat.sr.ht, I had a good reason to!

Discord makes everything simple for the user: connect to their app, and you're automatically connected to all your servers automatically. You get a full history of what you've missed, you can see notifications simply. You can also receive email digests of what happened. That's... not the case on IRC. While on Discord you have one account, on IRC, you'll need one per network you connect to. Which is often the first hurdle: sending the right command to NickServ so that you can get in. But hey, at least your in. After joining a few channels and speaking for some time, you decide to log off only to realize the next day that you have no history of what you missed while you were away. Perhaps someone answered to your message? Perhaps someone share something interesting? Maybe you live on a different timezone than most and your style is mostly async? No history of messages in the channel is a big issue. That alone was the main reason I struggled to get into IRC.

Then comes the bouncer. Or BNC (Bounced Network Connection). It's a software that acts as a proxy between your client and the IRC networks. Essentially, it connects for you and sits on channels indefinitely, capturing logs and offering services. That's what chat.sr.ht offers, and it's what made me excited to try it: I could finally see all the messages I missed.

With my current limited knowledge of the IRC ecosystem, it feels like a BNC brings the whole IRC experience much closer to some of the modern alternatives. That's why I like chat.sr.st. It packages the BNC with a simple front-end client and I can access it from anywhere, even from my phone. I feel like it's a great step in making IRC more accessible for a less tech-oriented audience.

Anyway, if you also start with IRC, or even if you've been doing it for a while, feel free to hop to our little channel: #midnight-pub on libera.chat. We're not a lot, and some of us might not be directly connected, but our bouncers will surely be there! ;)


Written with Smol Pub
From Dusk's End, Nightfall City