IRC

Best Self-Hosted IRC Clients

While IRC (Internet Relay Chat) may not feel as fresh today as it did during its golden era, which spans from the 1990s to early 2000s, this application layer protocol that facilitates communication in the form of text isn’t going away anytime soon.

Open source developers and enthusiasts have a particularly rosy relationship with IRC, and the Freenode network alone encompasses more than 90,000 users and 40,000 channels.

If you would like to explore what IRC communities are all about, this list of top 5 best self-hosted IRC clients will help you pick the best IRC client for your home server so that you can connect from anywhere and any device.

1. The Lounge

The Lounge is an IRC client that never sleeps. It runs on any server with Node.js, which is an open source, cross-platform JavaScript run-time environment that executes JavaScript code outside the browser, and offers a highly polished user experience with a plethora of cool features that elevate it high above the competition. For starters, the user interface of The Lounge is fully responsive and works flawlessly on desktop computers and mobile devices alike. The Lounge supports multiple users, so a group of friends can set it up on a single shared web server and maintain it collectively. The Lounge is licensed under the MIT license and run by a dedicated community of open source enthusiasts.

In the next section of this article, we explain how you can install and configure The Lounge on your own web server. Believe us: it’s very simple.

2. Shout

Before there was The Lounge, there was Shout. Unfortunately, Shout’s development stopped early in 2016, leaving this IRC client unfinished with multiple critical bugs. As is often the case with open source projects, Shout’s users decided to do something about it and forked their favorite client. The name they’ve selected for their creation was The Lounge, and the rest is history.

While you can still use Shout today, there’s really no reason to do so because The Lounge can do everything Shout can—except better and with fewer bugs.

3. Convos

Convos describes itself as the simplest way to use IRC. Like other self-hosted IRC clients, Convos is always online, which means you can come back at any time and see everything that has been said while you were AFK. It takes just two commands to install and run Convos on a home server or cloud service, and it can even be deployed using Docker.

Some of the most noteworthy features of Convos include automatic multimedia and link previews, desktop notifications, and strict adherence to essential usability principles. If you would like to see Convos in action, head over to its official website and run the online demo version.

4. Quassel

First released in 2008, Quassel is a cross-platform IRC client that uses the Qt application framework. With Quassel, you can connect to multiple IRC servers simultaneously, use convenient keyboard shortcuts to perform all common actions without taking your hands from the keyboard, arrange your channel and query buffers in default or custom views, just to name a few of its features.

In the recent years, the development of Quassel has slowed down a bit, but big things are coming as the next release will bring with itself the jump from version 0.12.5 to 0.13.

5. KiwiIRC

KiwiIRC is a customizable IRC client that runs in all major web browsers and supports both themes and plugins. You’ve probably already encountered a KiwiIRC widget embedded on some website. The KiwiIRC widget gives you access to a large number of supported networks without any complicated setup, which is why many community websites add it as an extra feature.

Last year, KiwiIRC secured sponsorship from Private Internet Access, which is a personal virtual private network service that supports multiple VPN technologies such as PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SOCKS5, and OpenVPN. Hopefully, the sponsorship will allow KiwiIRC to thrive for many years to come.

How to Install and Configure The Lounge

Before you can install The Lounge, you need to have Node.js v4 or more recent and npm, a package manager for the JavaScript programming language, installed on your webserver. Installation instructions for both are readily available on the internet, and it would be beyond the scope of this article to describe the process here.

With Node.js and npm installed, you can simply enter the following command in the terminal to install The Lounge:

$ [sudo] npm -g install thelounge

The most important configuration file is called config.js, and it’s located in the lounge folder. You can quickly open it with the following command:

$ lounge config

There are many different options you can play with, and they are all documented here.

You should definitely enable SSL by changing the “enable” option under “https” to “true” and modifying the path to your SSL certificate. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you can obtain one for free from  Let’s Encrypt at no costs.

When you’re ready to start The Lounge, simply enter the following command in the terminal:

$ lounge start

To view an overview of all commands supported by The Lounge, enter:

$ lounge --help

For every new release of The Lounge, Docker images are automatically updated on DockerHub. Running The Lounge using Docker is effortless, and the entire process is described in detail here.

Conclusion

Slack, Discord, and other modern cloud-based communication tools are in vogue right now, but the venerable Internet Relay Chat protocol is here to stay. While IRC may lack many features we’ve got used to over the years, its simplicity, reliability, and low hardware requirements make it perfect for communities large and small that don’t want to be shackled by proprietary.

With our selection of the best self-hosted IRC clients, you can enjoy IRC from anywhere and from any device and learn a bunch of useful skills in the process.

About the author

David Morelo

David Morelo

Content writer and copywriter, researcher, wannabe linguistic, part-time marketer, gym rat, sometimes annoying but always loving boyfriend.

I was born and raised in the Czech Republic, where I studied English and Japanese philology at the Palacký University in Olomouc, the second oldest university in the Czech Republic and the largest university in Moravia, one of the historical Czech lands.