What is IRCIRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. In simple terms, it is rather like going into a house, with many rooms in it. In each room (or Channel, as it is called in IRC), are a variety of people, speaking about a topic of conversation. People may then choose to chat with one another simply by typing in their messages. The beauty of IRC is that the user's message is received very quickly, in seconds, and the user does not have to refresh any pages, as in a regular web "chat room". It makes conversation that much easier, knowing that someone is receiving your message quickly, and it becomes more natural and more like a real life conversation in that manner.
A Bit of History
IRC was originally written by Jarkko Oikarinen in 1988, in Finland . It has been used in over 60 countries around the world, in times of war and peace. IRC proved its usefulness and gained international fame during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. At that time, with chaos in many places, updates from around the world were reported on IRC and most users gathered on a single Channel to hear them. IRC had similar uses during the political coup against Boris Yeltsin in September 1993, where IRC users from Moscow were giving live reports about the unstable situation there. IRC users often use it to gain information on the news of the day.
What do people use IRC for?
People use IRC for communication of all types. Some people just like to chat with each other. Others use it for business. Some people discover romance over IRC, and others argue. It is great as a learning tool, either for practicing another language, or for computer skills. IRC is wonderful for getting all your geographically separated friends together online at a specific time and place. You can talk with one another, just like you used to do when you were all in one place. One of the best aspects of IRC is that everyone is equal on the internet. Information about yourself is only the information you choose to present. Remember: You don't have to answer each and every question you are asked, you can always choose to say "I don't feel like answering that right now."
What is a Network
A Network is a series of Servers set up to interact with one another. They are connected to one another over the internet, and what is written on a Channel on one Server can be seen by all the other users in that Channel. There are many IRC networks like DalNet, Undernet, EFNet, NewNet, etc. Some networks are global (dalnet/undernet/etc), others are regional (Oznet/BrasIRC/etc).