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Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an open protocol that allows users with an IRC client to exchange text messages in real time over the Internet. Created by Jarkko Oikarinen in 1988, IRC was one of the first chat systems to allow more than two participants to join in a discussion.
Like email, IRC was another application that added to the popularity of the Internet before the existence of the World Wide Web. Using an IRC client, users could connect to IRC servers and message in real time with people all over the world and join larger groups (channels). Although this is now commonplace, IRC was an early indication of the Internet’s power to create communities where time and distance would have once made it impossible. Like many aspects of the Internet, the request for comments (RFC) system was central to creating and improving IRC.