Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a protocol for real-time Internet text messaging (chat) or synchronous conferencing. It is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication via private message as well as chat and data transfer, including file sharing. IRC was created in 1988. Client software is available for every major operating system that supports Internet access. As of April 2011, the top 100 IRC networks served more than half a million users at a time, with hundreds of thousands of channels operating on a total of roughly 1,500 servers out of roughly 3,200 servers worldwide. IRC was created by Jarkko Oikarinen in August 1988 to replace a program called MUT (MultiUser Talk) on a BBS called OuluBox in Finland. Oikarinen found inspiration in a chat system known as Bitnet Relay, which operated on the BITNET. IRC was used to report on the 1991 Soviet coup d'etat attempt throughout a media blackout.
Contributions by Joy, Kate, and Olathe.