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Chatting is big business on the World Wide Web

Jan. 18, 1996


The World-Wide Web has become the fastest growing aspect of the Internet. But long before the Web, there were aspects of the then text-only Internet that proved popular, and still remain so,

Live interaction, or "chat'' with other on-line computer users is something that the Web doesn't really offer yet -- but Internet Relay Chat, or IRC does.

IRC can appear to be a little technical to the Internet newcomer. It's not as user friendly as the Web's point-and-click interface. Fortunately, IRC servers always have on-line help files a couple of keystrokes away.

To use IRC you need to download the software. Many Internet providers include IRC software with their package. IRC software is also available for download over the Internet, and from the on-line services.

After you have an Internet connection established, you start the IRC software package much the same way you would a Web browser. You'll be prompted in most cases to enter the address for the IRC server you wish to connect to. A sampling of these would include:

  • irc.escape.com

  • irc.texas.net

  • irc.colorado.edu

A nickname and some other user information is usually required before logging in. Once properly logged in to the IRC server, a welcome screen will display some guidelines and some system messages.

IRC servers are divided into channels, much like you would find on CB. Depending on the software, you can get a listing of the channels and topics available on each server.

Be aware that IRC users tend to be the college-age computer-savvy crowd. The channels and topics you'll find on most servers reflect their interests Ï but that doesn't mean you won't find a channel that interests you, or can't start your own channel and topic.

Channel topics vary widely, from religion to relationships, from sports to on-line games. Parents should be aware that IRC channels are usually unmoderated; topics and conversation can become ugly if you find yourself in the middle of an IRC chat war.

The simplest IRC software I've used is Global Chat for PCs. It is very easy to setup and operate, and can provide a good introduction to IRC. Global Chat is probably the closest thing to a point-and-click IRC interface you'll find.

Another IRC package worth mentioning is Netscape Chat. It is relatively easy to use, and offers the ability to interface with the Netscape Web browser.

Netscape Chat users can transmit the addresses of World-Wide Web pages to the people on their IRC channel, and these Web pages will be displayed on other users' Web browsers. All the action Ï the displaying of Web pages and the resulting discussion Ï moves so fast that it can be hard to follow, but that can be half the fun of IRC.

FIND IT? Finding the information you need on the Internet continues to be a daunting -- and often time-consuming -- task. I recently discovered a Web site that combines a large array of search engines into a very easy-to-use interface.

All In One offers links to nearly every search tool available on the Internet. Search tools are the only thing All In One features; links to databases and other resources make it a must-have for every Web surfer.

The search features are divided into categories: World-Wide Web, General Internet, People, News/Weather, Publications/Literature, Technical Reports, Documentation and Desk Reference are among them.

Some of the interesting searchable items include the works of Shakespeare, the Library of Congress, documents in the U.S. Senate, a dictionary, zip code directories, an 800-number database and even IRS tax forms.

HIGH-TECH ADVANCE? Yes, even President Clinton's State of the Union Address has gone high-tech.

Thanks to RealAudio software, Clinton's Tuesday address was broadcast live on the Internet. The real-time Internet-cast made the speech available around the world Ï for folks unable to catch it live on the U.S. broadcast networks, CNN, or C-SPAN.

TIMES A-CHANGING. The New York Times has formally launched its long-awaited World Wide Web site.

The site will include news and features found in the daily newspaper, as well as The Times' crossword puzzle in an interactive format.

There will be no access charge domestically to The New York Times on the Web, but first-time users will be required to register. For users outside the U.S., the service will be a paid subscription service, with a 30-day free trial.

A searchable news database and a personal daily clipping service are premium services that will be available by subscription.

The Times will continue to maintain its section on America Online.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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