Tag Archives: IRC

The n00b’s Guide to Running an IRC Channel

This is a repost of the etherpad guide I created and shared a while back. Contributing to Mozilla sometimes means you need to run an IRC channel before you’re really familiar with IRC. This is everything you need to know to be a channel owner on Mozilla’s IRC network.

First of all, IRC is old school hardcore internet stuff, but it’s really useful.  Because it’s old school, you can think of it kind of like a terminal program (which it probably is).  So that means that you get one text field to type your chat and your  commands. Many IRC programs today have a lot of  buttons and graphics and things so you don’t have to type all the  commands, depending on how involved you end up getting.


  • Commands always start with / as the first character you type.  That’s how the service knows it’s a command.
  • Just like chat, you hit enter when you’re ready to send your command.
  • If you put a space first, it will send it as chat, not as a command.

To demonstrate typing into the  text input area I will use [         ] so pretend that’s the box, these aren’t characters to type.


[/join #remo       ] <– this will send the command

[ /join #remo       ] <– this will show these words in the channel

Tip: “channel” is the IRC term instead of “chat room” and almost always begins with a # symbol.


Basic Commands


  • This command allow you connect an irc server
  • Example: [/server irc.mozilla.org]


  • This command allow you join a channel manually. When you choose your IRC client you can tell it what channels you want it to join automatically when it starts.
  • Example: [/join #remo], [/join #firefox]


  • This command allow you quit a channel manually.
  • Example: [/part] (inside a channel), [/part #remo]


  • This command allow you change your nickname
  • Example [/nick your_new_nick_here]



  • Ops means operator status.  That means you get some control over the channel and its members, eg if a spambot has joined the channel you can kick it out. not covered in this guide
  • Users with ops show up in the channel list differently, so
  • We use ops on Mozilla’s IRC server to show users and new people to the channel who’s on the team, and who they can ask for help.

Mozilla’s IRC has some built in services that help us manage our channels, especially NickServ and ChanServ.



  • ChanServ lets you register your channel so it will remember who the owner is and automatically perform commands for you
  • ChanServ can remember who is supposed to have ops, but only if you have registered your nickname with NickServ – otherwise someone could pretend to be you and use your name to take over the channel.

Back in the day you had to do all of this yourself, which meant if everyone left the channel, say to go to bed,  the channel would no longer exist and someone else could take it over.



To register your nickname, or “nick” with NickServ you simply send it a private message with the right commands and information.

  • First of all, make sure you’re using the nick you want to register.
  • If you need to change your name the command is /nick eg [/nick Lucy   ]

Tip: Don’t worry about this too much though, if you decide you need to use a  different nick later (maybe yours is too long or you want to switch to  your real name) you can “group” multiple nicknames. Grouping nicks is explained in the next guide.

  • When you’re ready to register your nick use the command to ask NickServ for help: [/msg nickserv help register   ]
  • NickServ will message you back the info you need to provide.

Tip: /msg is the command to send chat privately to one person.  In my IRC client it shows nickserv’s  messages in the same channel that I sent the command from (but only to me) depending on your client, it might put them all in their own channel/window and you might have to switch over to continue.


Identify With NickServ aka Getting Your Ops

  • Once you’ve registered your nickname you will want to find the setting in your IRC client that will automatically identify you with nickserv when you join IRC.
  • If not you will have to type the command /msg nickserv identify <your password>.
  • If your client identifies with NickServ before it joins any channels, once you join those channels you’ll automatically be given your ops (if you have them for that channel).
  • If  you identify with nickserv after you join your channels you will then need to ask ChanServ for your ops with this command: /msg chanserv op

It’s a bit complicated at first if you’re not used to using terminals (I’m not! IRC is the only one I use regularly) but as you can see it really follows a pattern and all the commands make sense in English.


Choosing an IRC Client

  • In terms of what program to use – I use IRC  enough that I use its own program. I like this because it has its own  alerts and it’s easy to switch back and forth.
  • For those of you that are  only using IRC for meetings, or just a couple channels, you can try something more basic first.
  • I suggest starting with Chatzilla https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/chatzilla/  (this is the link for the Firefox extension, but you can get it in  Thunderbird if you prefer). It’s very easy to use, it’s very customizable and it’s easy to get support if you have trouble getting  started.
  • If you’re already using something like Pidgin that has built in IRC support, you can give that a try.

Tip: If you find IRC is too hard, I really really strongly suggest getting a dedicated IRC client before giving up. A good UI should solve most of the problems.


Recommended IRC Clients to Try First

  • Firefox/Thunderbird extension: Chatzilla (see above for download link)
  • Linux: Xchat, Empathy, Pidgin, Xchat Gnome, Irssi
  • iOS: Colloquy
  • Android: AndChat

Good luck! and once you’re comfortable let me know, I’m happy to recommend  more channels you might be interested in hanging out in. And of course  if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help, as are many IRC regulars!