OK, this is going to be one of those rants I spit out from time to time. You know I love IRC, I use it to chat, help other users to chat and use it as a base for scientific groups because of its excellent ways to automate tasks with the help of bots. IRC evolves, new functionality is being added almost on a daily basis. And that should be a good thing. But I have to wonder, is IRC becoming too complicated for new users?
Lets take Undernet for example. Not to pick on it, because I love the place, but because this is the network I have most experience with. Just go along with me, and imagine being a new user who would like to check Undernet out because you heard you’ll find mind alikes there.
First you will need an IRC client. OK, maybe not such a big deal, in the end you will most likely bump into mIRC because it seems that is what everyone is using, too the extend some people speak of “see you on mIRC!”. Do you remember back then when you first installed a client? Would you think of hitting CTRL-O, click the Servers tab, and then select the correct network and then the server for your geographic location?
Once you found out how to get connected and get onto a channel, maybe only then you found out your host is visible for everyone else. OK, OK, we now have hosthiding. One way or the other you found out how to set +x automatically in your client. But then you autojoin your channel and find out you weren’t yet logged into X (registering an username is a story on itself as well) so the whole purpose was defeated. OK, Ok, there are scripts around now that wont rejoin a channel before you are logged in. But then, if someone wants to know your host they just have to put you on notify and /whois is when you connect. Ah well, you get the idea when it comes to this.
The power of mIRC scripting and the risks it brings to install and run scripts from people you don’t know warrant an entire story on itself. Yet, as any abuse member of any network knows, users have no problem to install whatever script they bump into.
Then there are the channelmodes. In the inconsistencies when it comes depending what network you’re on. Argh, you just wanted to chat!
Next you might want to start your own channel, because just maybe you didn’t really find the channel you wanted, or did not liked the feeling of the channel you found. Once you finally found 10 people there a very misty process will start of which I of course can’t comment much on, but without knowing the process getting the channel registered will proof to be quite hard.
These are just a few from the examples. I could list many more, for just my network of choice. Other networks will have at least an equal amount of examples waiting. And to add to it, channelmodes identifiers can have different meanings on different networks. Ask any IRC client coder! IRC services with the same name work differently on different networks. The list goes on and on.
As said, in these examples I picked out Undernet, only because I have most experience there. The story is exactly the same for other networks. The question remains the same: are we making IRC too complicated for new users of the medium? In the end its the users that make IRC, and its essential we attract new users to the medium. Keeping that in mind might help the admins and developers keep a fresh eye while developing new functionality to our platform of choice for chatting.