Jarkkos Tale

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The following is an email sent from Jarkko Oikarinen, creator of the IRC protocol, talking about the early history of IRC.
this was also published at EFNet.org titled "Early IRC history". The link is included on their FAQ page but is broken because of a domain name change.

From [email protected] Fri Dec 10 18:23:37 1993
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 14:46:17 +0200
From: [email protected] (Jarkko Oikarinen)
To: [email protected]
Subject: IRC History...
Content-Length: 3752

Included is a history of IRC as I wrote maybe 3 or 4 years ago.
Hope it helps!

  I don't know if this helps much. I hope I remember things correctly and
  apologise people whom I have left out and they had deserved to be in here.
  I was working in the Department of Information Processing Science in
  University of Oulu during summer'88. I guess they didn't have much for me
  to do. I was administring the department's sun server, but it didn't 
  take all time. So I started doing a communications program, which was
  meant to make OuluBox (a Public Access BBS running on host tolsun.oulu.fi,
  administered by me) a little more usable. The purpose was to allow
  USENET News-kind of discussion and groups there in addition to real time
  discussions and other BBS related stuff.
  Jyrki Kuoppala ([email protected]) had implemented rmsg program for sending
  messages to people on other machines. It didn't have the channel concept
  implemented (though it supported it), so it was mainly used for
  person-to-person communications.
  Another already existing simple multiuser chat program on OuluBox was
  MUT (MultiUser Talk), it was written by Jukka Pihl ([email protected]).
  That program has a bad habit of not working properly, so in order to
  fix this, the first implemented thing of this BBS plan was IRC.
  The birthday of IRC was in August 1988. The exact date is unknown,
  at the end of the month anyways.
  Bitnet Relay Chat was a good inspiration for IRC. When IRC started
  occasionally having more than 10 users, I asked some friends of mine to
  start running irc servers in south Finland, mainly in Tampere University
  of Technology and Helsinki University of Technology. Some other
  universities soon followed. Markku J{rvinen ([email protected]) improved
  the irc client (there was only one at that time) to support some emacs
  editing commands. At that time it was obvious that adding BBS like
  functions to the program was not a good idea, it's better to have
  one program for one purpose. So the BBS extension idea was given up
  and just IRC stayed.
  IRC was well spread in Finland. I contacted some friends of mine through
  BITNET Relay and asked if they would try this program. Internet connections
  did not yet work from Finland to other countries, so they could not
  connect to the Finnish network (which I suppose was the reason for them not
  being very enthusiastic about irc).
  Internet connections to states started working (I don't anymore remember when).
  I answered to some news articles where people asked for multiuser chat
  programs. I didn't get replies.
  At mit, there was the legendary ai.ai.mit.edu machine running ITS.
  I got an account there and learned to use it a little bit. Enough to
  know how to chat with people. From there I got the first IRC user outside
  Scandinavia, Mike Jacobs used IRC through OuluBox (he did not have account
  on any Unix machines).
  Through ai.ai.mit.edu I got to know Vijay Subramaniam (I hope I spelled
  that correctly :-). I had given IRC to him and not heard of him for some
  time. Then I got mail messages from Jeff Trim (used to be
  [email protected], University of Denver, current address unknown)
  David Bleckmann ([email protected]) and Todd Ferguson
  ([email protected], Oregon State University).
  Vijay had given IRC to them and they had started
  ircd on their machines (orion.cair.du.edu and jacobcs.cs.orst.edu,
  if I remember correctly) and wanted to connect to Finnish irc network.
  After that some other people started running IRC, and the number
  of servers grew quickly.
  The first IRC server (and still running) was tolsun.oulu.fi
  I have no idea of the latest one..

Aug 88 - first irc server tolsun.oulu.fi
89 - ircII released by Michael Sandrof (BigCheese)
Mar 90 - 2.2msa4
Jun 90 - 2.5beta ("+" named channels)
Jun 90 - ircII 1.90a
Jul 90 - 12 users on 38 servers
Aug 90 - IRC splits into EFnet (Eris Free) and Anet (Anarchy)
Sep 90 - 117 servers
Sep 90 - 41 users 86 servers
Nov 90 - version 2.6 released
Dec 90 - ircII 2.0beta10
late 90 - Darren Reed (Avalon) adds hash tables when IRC stops under load
xxxx 91 - Troy Rollo (Troy) takes over ircII development
Jan 91 - The Gulf war.. usage goes from peak 100 to peak 300
Jan 91 - version 2.6.1 adds flow control..
Feb 91 - bandwidth NSF stats record 8.8 Gigs for month of Feb
Mar 91 - NSF is all T1
Mar 91 - 2.6pre18 (famous for running on services.de long after 2.7 release)
Mar 91 - bandwidth 200k/2 hours
Mar 91 - 135 servers 69 us 66 non us
Apr 91 - 240 users median
Jun 91 - Cori booted off
Jul 91 - The.PLAN
Aug 91 - ircII 2.1.3
Oct 91 - 399 users 120 servers 44 opers (hits 500)
Nov 91 - ircII 2.1.5pre3
Sum 92 - ICMP attacks (cert advisory July 92)
Jan 93 - Matthew Green (phone) takes over ircII development
xxxx 94 - irc.colorado.edu hits 1000 users 
late 94 - IRC hits 5,000 users
mid 95 - irc.escape.com hits 2000 users
Oct 95 - IRC hits 15,000 users
Feb 96 - Possibly largest channel ever. Id releases Qtest. #Quake sees 1556 
May 96 - Europe and the US EFnet splits into two separate networks as a result 
of a disagreement on whether the network should use TS or Nick Delay as a means 
to prevent nick collisions.
Apr 97 - IRC hits 30,000 users
Jun 97 - irc-e.primenet.com and irc1.phoenix.net both break 3000 clients
Oct 97 - "smurf.c" 
multi-broadcast ICMP attack posted to Bugtraq
Denial of Service attacks on EFnet servers hit an all-time high
Jan 98 - IRC hits 40,000 users
Mar 98 - irc.blackened.com breaks 4000 clients
Apr 98 - irc.blackened.com breaks 5000 clients
May 98 - irc.blackened.com breaks 6000 clients 
Jun 98 - irc.blackened.com breaks 7000 clients
Sep 98 - irc.blackened.com breaks 8000 clients
Feb 99 - irc.idle.net breaks 9000 clients
Feb 99 - irc.idle.net breaks 10000 clients
Feb 99 - IRC hits 50,000 users
Jul 99 - irc.freei.net breaks 11000 clients
Aug 99 - irc.concentric.net breaks 12000 clients
Aug 99 - irc.concentric.net breaks 13000 clients
Nov 99 - EFnet breaks 60,000 clients
Nov 99 - irc.core.com breaks 14000 clients
Dec 99 - irc.core.com breaks 15000 clients
Dec 99 - irc.core.com breaks 16000 clients

Need dates for
- IRC gets 10 servers
see my note above from Jarkko

- IRC gets 100 servers

the very first time it was done was May 1990, but it soon dropped down
again. It was before the split and anyone could set up a server so we set
up a few on machines at UC to bring the total up to 100 :-)
[before EFnet/Anet]

- IRC gets 200 servers (it has been over 200.. but has dropped since)
- irc2.4 (numeric only channels)

here's a bit of history...

I first started using irc in January or February of 1990. At the time the
latest server revs were 2.2PL0 and 2.2PL1. msa and Chelsea Ashley Dyerman
were working on the 2.3 release ... there was a disagreement between them
about the copyrights. Chelsea had everything copyrighted by the IRCDC (IRC
Development Consortium). People told her they didn't like that, it should
be GPL'ed. She released 2.3alpha with those copyrights. Very few sites ran
it as it didn't offer much over 2.2PL1.

At the same time, msa was doing his own work. He added very handy things
like /whowas, nick chase kill, wallops (later removed), and remote /away
propogation. He had several releases, the most stable being 2.2msa4 and
2.2msa9. 2.2msa10 eventually turned into 2.4 (2.3 was "tainted" by

Jarkko came along and did a bit of cleanup on 2.4 (which was stable in and
of itself) and released 2.4.1.

- irc2.5

Armin did 2.5 alpha, and then Jarkko took it over, with his idiotic 2.5+
release. msa (I believe) did 2.5.1 ... then Tom Hopkins and some other BU
folks (myself included) collaborated on 2.5.1.bu.10, possibly the most
stable server version to date :-) No new features went into 2.5.1.bu.10
(also called 2.5.2 in the docs, but it was never released as such), just
bug fixes. I wish we did that nowadays :-)

- irc2.6 + channels (still have numerics) # channels added later on

Armin started the 2.6 release and then Avalon took it over. 

- irc2.7 # channels replace + channels and numerics go away forever

2.7 was a nice cleanup release. People tried to do things a bit more by
the book. ircd was put through a saber C check (and bullied into
compliance :-) 

Bans were added to the server in 2.7. In 2.6 you could kick a user out but
had to rekick or go +i to stop them from rejoining.

- irc2.8 & channels.. 
- irc2.9 + channels are back, sorta 

Read the operlist archives on ftp.kei.com:/pub/irc/mailing-lists

USBIC, planned in 1993, never passed. Again, more archives on

Again, I really suggest you look at the operlist and irclist archives on
ftp.kei.com/pub/irc/mailing-lists -- it covers most of these issues.

- WALLOPS removed

Again, the dates should be in the archives

- MODES added

modes were added with + channels.