Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a system for chatting that involves a set of rules and conventions and server software. On the Web, certain sites such as Talk City or IRC networks such as the DALNET provide servers and help you download an IRC client to your PC. Talk City also offers an IRC client applet that it downloads for you as part of their home page so that you can start chatting right away.
You can start a chat group (called a CHANNEL) or join an existing one. There is a protocol for discovering existing chat groups and their members. Depending on the type of network, nicknames can be reserved (registered) or just used during the session. Some channels encourage you to register a nickname that you always use and even offer space for a personal profile, picture, and personal home page link.
Popular ongoing IRC channels are #hottub and #riskybus. A number of channels are set up and conducted in foreign languages. The most common IRC networks are IRCnet (mostly European), EFnet (mostly North American), Undernet, and Dalnet. Popular IRC clients include mIRC for Windows, IRCle for Mac OS, and irc2 (the original client) for UNIX-base operating systems.