IRC for DMs

Honestly, it's pretty great

Nerdy and I decided to try and use IRC for our daily communications, as opposed to non-free alternatives like WhatsApp or Telegram. This is an account of how that went.

The status quo of instant messaging apps

I’ve tried a ton of messaging applications — Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Wire, Jami (Ring), Matrix, Slack, Discord and more recently, DeltaChat.

Signal: It straight up sucks on Android. Not to mention the centralized architecture, and OWS’s refusal to federate.

WhatsApp: Facebook’s spyware that people use without a second thought. The sole reason I have it installed is for University’s class groups; I can’t wait to graduate.

Telegram: Centralized architecture and a closed-source server. It’s got a very nice Android client, though.

Jami: Distributed platform, free software. I am not going to comment on this because I don’t recall what my experience was like, but I’m not using it now… so if that’s indicative of anything.

Matrix (Riot): Distributed network. Multiple client implementations. Overall, pretty great, but it’s slow. I’ve had messages not send / not received a lot of times. Matrix + Riot excels in group communication, but really sucks for one-to-one chats.

Slack / Discord: sigh

DeltaChat: Pretty interesting idea — on paper. Using existing email infrastructure for IM sounds great, but it isn’t all that cash in practice. Email isn’t instant, there’s always a delay of give or take 5 to 10 seconds, if not more. This affects the flow of conversation. I might write a small blog post later, revewing DeltaChat.1

Why IRC?

It’s free, in all senses of the word. A lot of others have done a great job of answering this question in further detail, this is by far my favourite:

Using IRC’s private messages

This was the next obvious choice, but personal message buffers don’t persist in ZNC and it’s very annoying to have to do a /query nerdypepper (Weechat) or to search and message a user via Revolution IRC. The only unexplored option — using a channel.

Setting up a channel for DMs

A fairly easy process:

  • Set modes (on Rizon)2:

    #crimson [+ilnpstz 3]

    In essence, this limits the users to 3 (one bot), sets the channel to invite only, hides the channel from /whois and /list, and a few other misc. modes.

  • Notifications: Also a trivial task; a quick modification to to send a notification for all messages in the specified buffer (#crimson) did the trick for Weechat. Revolution IRC, on the other hand, has an option to setup rules for notifications — super convenient.

  • A bot: Lastly, a bot for a few small tasks — fetching URL titles, responding to .np (now playing) etc. Writing an IRC bot is dead simple, and it took me about an hour or two to get most of the basic functionality in place. The source is here. It is by no means “good code”; it breaks spectacularly from time to time.

In conclusion

As the subtitle suggests, using IRC has been great. It’s probably not for everyone though, but it fits my (and Nerdy’s) usecase perfectly.

P.S.: I’m not sure why the footnotes are reversed.

  1. It’s in queue.
  2. Channel modes on Rizon.

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