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Is IRC All Bad? 461

An anonymous reader writes "IRC is often portrayed by the media as a haven for illegal activity. The author of IRC Hacks set out to find whether or not this was true. His conclusions are quite alarming, suggesting that 99.9% of IRC usage is illegal although he backs up IRC by saying that it is also used for lots of constructive purposes and is used by open source software developers." Update: 01/21 05:17 GMT by P : The author claimed it was merely 99.9% of traffic "to the top 60 channels" that is illegal, not 99.9% of all IRC traffic.
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Is IRC All Bad?

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  • by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) * <> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:27PM (#11428013) Homepage Journal
    Sure, maybe by bandwidth, 99% of IRC traffic is illegal. Aside from the binary file transfers themselves, I'd say probably 99% of all remaining IRC traffic (i.e. in-channel) is perfectly legal.

    Actually I read the article, and he says that "99.9% of IRC traffic to the top 60 channels is 'illegal.'" Which doesn't surprise me; all 60 of them are warez channels. But overall, this is a drop in the IRC ocean.

    There is far too much legal conversation going on that he completely ignored in this study, choosing to focus on the top 60 warez channels to the exclusion of all else. Is it any wonder he found what he found? If you go looking for warez, you're probably going to find warez.

    In other words, this is a bunch of lies, damn lies and statistics. I didn't even have to think hard about this one to realize it's a bunch of bullshit.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:33PM (#11428073)
      Binaries (if you mean warez packaged in nicely formatted rars or isos) don't get sent over IRC. They use DCC.
    • by NevermindPhreak ( 568683 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:00AM (#11428295)
      i think this persons "study" was just based on how many times someone said something that seemed to be "illegal" or "legal" based on keywords in what they have to say. of course, the top 60 channels are warez channels, because warez channels tend to be as large as possible (1000+ users). when is the last time youve had a conversation with 1000 of your closest friends?

      people just sit idle in warez channels, letting bots run, stuff like that. if this study used the smallest 60 channels, i think the results would be the opposite. its like judging the crime rate of the entire nation by taking the average of the largest several cities.

      • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:34AM (#11428922)

        i think this persons "study" was just based on how many times someone said something that seemed to be "illegal" or "legal" based on keywords in what they have to say.

        Well, with names like #nethack, of course the channel is devoted to illegal activities. ;)

      • So he goes into warez channels and concludes that they're used for illegal stuff. Well, gee, ain't that a surprise. (Sarcasm there.)

        So it's not just like doing a crime-rate study on the 10 largest city. It's like doing a study on the 10 largest _prisons_ and concluding that 99.9% of them are criminals (or at least have commited at least one major crime in their lifetime), hence the whole country is a country of criminals.

        Or it's like doing a web study based on Slashdot and concluding that world-wide 99% o
    • No mention then of the thousands of botnets controlled via IRC.

      I see this as a far more nefarious use of the protocol than people swapping warez.

    • I can just see some moron waving a statistic like this around congress... that's all we need. It's hard to enough to explain things when we have accurate information. It's a nightmare when dealing with this kind of hackneyed nonsense.
    • And then some! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by violet16 ( 700870 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:17AM (#11428419)
      From the article, all he found is that most of the time Microsoft, Norton, Symantec, and Jasc are mentioned in 60 particular IRC channels, it's in relation to illegally downloading their products.

      He didn't look at the vast majority of IRC channels, and of those he did, he didn't consider the vast majority of the traffic within them -- just those four words. Additionally, he failed to observe any distinction between engaging in an illegal activity and simply mentioning it.

      This is a bit like visiting the 60 largest train stations, measuring how many times the word "score" is used in relation to illegal activity, and concluding that 99.9% of the world's public transport users are drug trafficking.
    • So basically what you're saying is that going by bandwidth, sure 99% of all IRC traffic is illegal, but 99% of the remaining traffic is perfectly legit?

      Sorry... I can't help but laugh.

    • There is far too much legal conversation going on that he completely ignored in this study, choosing to focus on the top 60 warez channels to the exclusion of all else

      The remaining wonderful conversation is fully documented here [].
    • Just remember, 84% of all statistics are made up. But only 62% of the population knows this. ;-)

      But seriously, you can make statistics say anything. apparently 85% of grads at the college I went to get jobs in thier field. Unfortunatly I keep in touch with about 20% of my graduating class. (10-12 ppl) and 3 of us are programming professionally.
    • Ahhh IRC is evil... (Score:5, Informative)

      by epiphani ( 254981 ) <epiphani&dal,net> on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:20AM (#11428854)
      This entire post is like flamebait for some of us.

      I've been an oper on DALnet for six years now, and I currently lead up their coding team, so allow me to shed some light on this - assuming this makes me qualified.

      The top 60 channels. Who goes to huge channels to chat? Ever tried talking in a channel with 20 active users? Try 800 active users. Nobody goes to large channels to chat, its pointless to even try. The folks that join these channels join looking for something specific, or to offer something. They find what they are looking for, and move on.

      On DALnet, we've taken agressive action against warez, child porn, and drones. Drones are unfortunately the only item that I can speak on authoritively - we reject about 300 drones per second on any given server on our network. This is done through pattern matching in their registration. Drones is a serious problem on any network. A while back (five years or so), dianora of efnet did some drone hunting, and concluded that around 60% of "users" on irc were accually drones - hacked end-user computers. Drones are a far worse problem than people realize.

      A few years ago, DALnet was seriously DDOS'd - we went from the top network in the world (around 140,000) to next to nothing. Our servers sometimes got hit with DDOS attacks in the range of 60 Gigabits per second. We shut down major providers, rendered entire datacenters useless, and obviously lost servers quickly. We've since changed our routing methods to rely heavily on anycast, and changed a lot of other things.

      In my mind, DALnet is one of the networks that accually has one of the lowest noise ratios around. Quakenet, the current leader in usercount, raises questions with me. Their usercount rose very fast, and I wonder about their userbase. I personally know only -one- person who uses quakenet. You mention DALnet, Undernet or EFnet and people identify much more readily. Even more people use small IRC networks with 50-500 users.

      99.9% for illegal purposes - bullshit. If you go to irc only to look for warez, then I think you are in the minority. I'd put illegal purposes around 5% at best. And that means real, live people at the keyboard, looking for illegal material.
    • by whitis ( 310873 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:24AM (#11428876) Homepage

      Yes, this is an extreme example of how NOT to conduct a study. He started by chosing the 60 most popular channels - by definition they were not typical. There are 50,000 channels on undernet alone with an average of about 3 users each. Then he chose 4 keywords that are likely to be used much more for warez than legitimate conversation. The results would have been very different if the channels and keywords had been chosen randomly. Of course, if he had chosen a small number of keywords randomly, the results would probably have been 0.00% illegal traffic since the vast majority of the words used on IRC don't name products that are pirated, so the approach of examining the relative rates of legal and illegal use of particular keywords is itself flawed even if your choice of keywords isn't. Relative frequency of many different keywords in some cases could give some clues though there are statistical problems with this. "ROFLMAO" is more likely to be found in legitimate messages whereas "systemworks" is more likely to be found in piracy or SPAM (though it can occur in many legitimate contexts as well). A bayesian filter that looked at ALL keywords could have been used to separate the legal from illegal traffic after extensive training and used to extend the study over more messages and channels than could be done by hand.

      And of course, his statistics (or even much better ones) won't tell you if, for example, 37% of the bots offering downloads are run by BSA, RIAA, and MPAA so they can collect IP addresses of pirates and 87% of the download requests are dummy requests they generate to make it look like everyone is doing it (to make it look like it is safe to download so they can entrap people as well as inflating statistics they can trot out later).

    • In related news, 99.9% of email traffic was found to be used for illegal purposes. This was found after I registered my email address with the largest 60 mailing lists on the World Wide Web.

      It is reasonable to assume that smaller mailing lists and one-on-one email communications will not contain a significant number of users, so I did not bother to include them in my study.

  • IRC (Score:5, Funny)

    by irokitt ( 663593 ) <archimandrites-iaur AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:29PM (#11428025)
    Ah, IRC, where men are men, women are men, and 14-year old girls are FBI agents.

    Yeah, I buy 99%, although the last time I logged on it was for help with my Slackware box.

    If nothing else, IRC has given us
    • Re:IRC (Score:3, Funny)

      14-year old girls are FBI agents.

      Not all are sent from the FBI. Some men act like 14-year girls just for help in #windows.
    • Re:IRC (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jorkapp ( 684095 )
      Last time I logged on to IRC (network: was to chat with the populace in #gamesurge, as well as to have a battledice match in #battledice. Nothing illegal there.

      For the slashdot populace:
      [KBC] brb, i think i heard a girl say "desperate" about 3 miles away
    • Re:IRC (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qqtortqq ( 521284 )
      I've hung out in the same room probably since 97 or so, and have gotten pretty close with some of the people who have been there as long as I. Its a linux room, so theres not warez trading, just good conversation, a few lunatics, and some canadians. #alt.linux if you want to check it out.
    • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@yahoo. c o m> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:58PM (#11428277) Homepage
      When a nice 44 year old gentleman helping a troubled 14 year old girl regain her self confidence is "illegal".
    • by hayden ( 9724 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:06AM (#11428343)
      If nothing else, IRC has given us
      The theory runs that there is no question or statement that can not be answered by either a quote, a dilbert comic or a penny-arcade comic.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chris09876 ( 643289 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:29PM (#11428033)
    ...not that we should really be surprised. IRC has become less of a community with the chatrooms/instant messaging clients that exist now. In the past, it was a social activity. Now it's just a convenient way to trade warez :)
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LilGuy ( 150110 )
      You're so far off the mark... I've been chatting on irc for 8 years now... i've made some good friends, and i still continue to talk to them on a daily basis. As far as I can tell warez kidz are not even close to the majority of the irc population. It's like what one of the first posters said.. if you're looking for the warez, you'll find it, and you won't find much of anything else...

      so your viewpoint depends on what YOU use it for i guess..
  • Not so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:30PM (#11428041)
    99.9% is an entirely sensationalized number. It means nothing. If you actually read through, he's claiming 99.9% of the top 60 public channels on IRC are largely illegal behavior. That's not 99.9% of IRC. The warez related channels are large, and there are many people who use IRC just for that. But there are many people who actually use IRC for the purpose it was intended, to chat.

    I'm an oper on efnet, so I'm well aware of the fact illegal activity goes on on IRC. Depending on the illegal activity, we can and do take action. We regularly remove drone runners, hacked bots (drones or XDCC), spammers, and other malicious users. Do we actively pursue copyright infringers? Not generally. Besides the fact there's simply too many of them, they're generally not harming our network or each other so they're a low priority.

    Me? I use IRC for chat primarily, and most people I know do the same.
    • One also has to wonder what % of people on those channels
      generated the traffic in question. Was it just 5% of the
      thousands? 90%? My gut tells me the former is more likely

      Also don't forget there are smaller IRC nets dedicated to
      specific areas of interest and have nothing at all to to
      with warez or other illegal activities.
    • by raehl ( 609729 )
      Hi, I'm the RIAAlippy. It looks like you are able to block copyright infringers from your system. Would you like me to sue you?
    • ..and some of the most popular websites also revolve around illegal file sharing. it's not that surprising. irc works pretty well for that sort of thing and is traditionally used for it...

      anyhow.. the author knows it i'm sure.

      and most of the more public easy to get into warez rings seem to have scattered into other irc networks than the most popular 3. just take a look at networks + most popular channels listing []. the most popular channels on other networks than quakenet, ircnet and efnet are pretty much
    • You know you EFNET could get sued over that? Since you're clearly moderating the content (killing drones, hacked bots, etc) you loose common carrier status and if people are using your service for distirbuting copywritten material it opens yourself to a big fat lawsuit.
  • Next question please.
  • by gosh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by antiphoton ( 821735 )
    I'm a bit short on cash, i'll just download your book (linked from the article) from IRC.
  • by Turmio ( 29215 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:32PM (#11428063) Homepage
    His conclusions are quite alarming, suggesting that 99.9% of IRC usage is illegal

    From TFA: Based on those keywords being monitored, 99.9% of IRC traffic to the top 60 channels is "illegal".

    Clearly, (all) IRC usage != IRC traffic to the top 60 channels.
  • by TheRealSlimShady ( 253441 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:32PM (#11428065)
    IRC is just multiplayer notepad...
  • by captnitro ( 160231 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:33PM (#11428069)

    Most people use IM now, so there's less need for the casual user to read the following:

    captnitro: hey whats goin on
    ice8229: no fuck that
    captnitro: what?
    peebles: your mother is a whore, you know it
    ice8229: i'm not going to buy a goddamn program just to rip
    ice8229: anybody know of an open one?
    fisher0: i kno cuz i fuckerd her d00d
    captnitro: what the hell is going on here?
    adbot: MP3Z MOVIEZ WAREZ BAGELZ go to
    binaryman: 1000100011110101
    captnitro: huh?
    binaryman: 1001111010111110
    sharky: get out n00b
    fisher0: i am not a virgin i so fskced her! in the ears
    pornking: anybody want to cyber?
    10yearold: yes

    Clearly the domain of kings.
  • Bad analysis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UpLateDrinkingCoffee ( 605179 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:33PM (#11428072)
    He goes searching for warez (using four keywords related to popular software) and when he finds it he declares 99.9% of IRC usage is illegal? What about the linux support, gaming forums, etc... and there have to still be people that use IRC for plain old chat. I think these numbers are a bit misleading.
  • Whats new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shkuey ( 609361 )
    What internet protocol doesnt have a high percentage of illegal activity? HTTP to get to the warez sites, FTP to download from them, IRC to get them off other jackasses, SMTP to send unsolicited e-mail. P2P "protocols" ... Too many idiots are out here in cyberspace.
  • Ads and spams (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:34PM (#11428085) Homepage
    Skimming the article, obviously he counted Fserve ads and Xdcc ads. Each one of these, one every ten minutes or so, ads up most mightilly, but does not necesarrily mean that people are more interested in them by the huge margin that he comes up with (although I do think they do account for more). Just because I have a script that says "Free windows XP Pro Corp, Jasc, Norton systemworks type !DJ245" every 600 seconds doesn't mean that it is accounting for the vast majority of use of IRC. Traffic, probably. Bandwidth, most likely. But hours of time spend in front of a keyboard using IRC- most definitely not.
  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pizaz ( 594643 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:34PM (#11428092)
    This just in over the wires, everywhere is reporting that planet Earth is a haven for illegal activities. Without exception, in every town of every province of every country, earthlings are violating (where applicable)local, state and federal laws. In conclusion, people cannot be trusted and Martial Law must be declared!

    O' Big Brother, where art thou?
    • Well if all of Earth is in violation, did you mean Martian law? ;)
    • You forgot something. Everyone's violating laws, but you're not really supposed to be arrested for it. Unless they can get political advantage by arresting you. You can't rule a nation of law-abiding citizens.

      "I believe that you have an old-fashioned idea about law, Miss Taggart. Why speak of rigid, unbreakable laws? Our modern laws are elastic and open to interpretation according to . . . circumstances." --Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, book 2, chapter 8.
  • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:35PM (#11428099) Homepage
    Slashdot - the geek's Weekly World News!

  • by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <johnsonmx&gmail,com> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:35PM (#11428104) Homepage Journal
    This is interesting, if not completely scientific.

    First of all, the author asserts, "Based on [statistics extrapolated from the arbitrary] keywords being monitored, 99.9% of IRC traffic to the top 60 channels is "illegal"

    Which is arbitrary but interesting. I bet he might get different statistics if he monitored keywords unrelated to popular software programs. Or if non "top 60 channels" were monitored. Or if some more specific traffic-based analysis was carried out (cut messages by bots, etc).

    Secondly, and this is a place where he doesn't go, is IRC an encourager of illegal activity or just an outlet for it (i.e. if all IRC servers quit today, would all the illegal activity just shift to other parts of the 'net?)-- it's probably somewhere in the middle, but where, exactly? In other words, what does his study imply?

    I'd love to see more analysis on this.
    • yeah, they would switch. to something that's almost the same. if you look at some of the networks though, it's almost certain that some of the smaller one's don't mind the warez at all.

      hell, direct connect program and servers are ALMOST "irc-warez-made-easy".

  • Internal Development (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:37PM (#11428115) Journal
    Where I work uses IRC for internal communications. Channels for support, engineering, sales, etc. We'd go nuts without it.
  • by Monkey Angst ( 577685 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:37PM (#11428117) Homepage
    You mean you can get free stuff on IRC? All those hours I wasted soliciting underage girls, I could have been downloading Paint Shop Pro?

    (Seriously, though... PSP is in the top four requests? Really?)

  • IRC is.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:38PM (#11428130) Journal
    a private place for friends to chat and idle. If wetake MSN for example the percentage of bandwidth going to file transfering is going to be massaive compared to text messages. Think of it this way.

    1 message = 1-10kb
    1 movie file = 900mb (30 minutes = 200 mb so I'm assuming a movie is about that)

    Now then, I have to sent 1024 messages to make 1/900 or 1/90 of that same thing. So any way you look at it, you will still end up with "broadband is faster then my fingers."

    IRC is just free speech in a free place, it can be abused just as any where else can. I'm sure theres alot of child pornography on IRC, but I'm also sure theres alot of it being handed to "clients" in McDonalds and coffee shops. It's how the world works, only it's hidden better in that case.
  • What a silly boy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:39PM (#11428131) Homepage Journal
    Obviously any channel which has 1000 users on it isn't going to have much conversation going on. Unlike a cocktail party where 1000 people can congregate and have 200 different conversations simultaniously with 4-6 people per conversation, an irc channel with 1000 people is more like an auditorium where only a few people can talk at a time (usually one). This is hardly what you would call "chat".
  • This Guy's a Moron (Score:2, Insightful)

    by osmodion ( 716658 )
    A search for words that are more likely than not connected to warez returns 99.9% illegal activity? I wonder what percentage of the word "dumbass" turns up something illegal...
  • Possibly. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:40PM (#11428142) Homepage Journal
    But, then, 67.3% of all statistics are useless.

    99.9% of what? Alcoholics Anonymous' IRC meetings? The Linux channel? The Star Trek channel?

    Most of the other channels are sex lines. Sure, there's probably illegal stuff going on in some, but it's mostly people pretending to have a social life.

    99.9% of what's left, after you get rid of all that, is probably illegal. I'll accept that. It's just not a very useful figure, at that point.

  • the IRC protocol does not permit two users to share the same nickname
    This line from the article made me laugh.Pondering over it which IM protocol supports this ?
  • Entertainment. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vspazv ( 578657 )
    IRC also works as a great source of entertainment without being illegal as shown at []
  • Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by xeniten ( 550128 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:41PM (#11428150) Homepage
    I think a clarification is in order. The author states that he monitored the top 60 channels and of those 60 99.9% of that traffic was illegal.

    "Conclusions Two rather surprising observations can be made from this ad-hoc analysis of the 60 largest IRC channels: Based on those keywords being monitored, 99.9% of IRC traffic to the top 60 channels is "illegal". Norton products are more popular than Microsoft products (perhaps IRC users have more need for virus scanners?)

    Which is definitely not the same as saying 99.9% of "all" irc traffic is illegal. Which the story leader tends to imply. As we know there's a whole lot more than 60 channels available and many of them engage in perfectly legal activities.
  • Has to be said (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:41PM (#11428151) Journal
    Ever been to bash? That's what IRC is, there just happens to be alot of warez servers out there too. []
  • I've used IRC for years and whilst i have noticed some spam, i have never came cross anyone or anything illegal.

    Infact, the worst case of anything illegal going on was when my friends little brother chatted on MS net meeting, with the video confrence, dressed up with some fake boobs and got some elderly pervert to masturbate.

    I've only experienced dick heads on IRC. No doubt there is a lot of illegal stuff going on, but 99.9%? Get off it!
  • IRC builds community (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nxtr ( 813179 )
    Is everybody forgetting the instant help people get from IRC channels? Look around. You've got official IRC channels for almost every distro of Linux. Got a problem? Pop in and ask a question. There will almost always be someone there to help you.

    I idle on an IRC network where I've known the members for several years now. Yes, I will probably never meet them in real, but you have a sense of community. Is it illegal to have a sense of community?
  • Wow we should ban IRC along with P2P aswell! Oh why not ban real time network communications too?
  • by powerlinekid ( 442532 ) * on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:46PM (#11428184)
    IRC: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

    Actually to be honest, I've taken to calling it the "wastelands". If there is something I want, its google first. Bittorrent second. Kazaa-lite third. If all that fails, then its IRC. Usually if I get to that point, I'd rather give up before treking through that sludge.
    • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:44AM (#11428973)

      Actually to be honest, I've taken to calling it the "wastelands". If there is something I want, its google first. Bittorrent second. Kazaa-lite third. If all that fails, then its IRC. Usually if I get to that point, I'd rather give up before treking through that sludge.

      That's because you are warezing.

      Now, lets say you have an obscure question about a technical subject. Then the route tends to go TFM first, google second, and the appropropriate IRC channel third. (Always RTFM first, just to avoid pissing off the channel by asking the same damn questions over and over again).

  • by FS1 ( 636716 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:50PM (#11428226)
    analysis, and conclusions. First off i will agree that most if not all of IRC traffic is illegal. Secondly i will note that monitoring four words in 6 channels on the top 10 IRC networks, is not a good sample to base conclusions on. I will also point out that most, if not all, of the really "illegal" channels are not on the big networks, and are rarely public. This Kazaa of places he found are just the tip of the iceberg. The IRC channels are really just a front for a much larger problem. Here's how it works: People run these IRC "warez" channels basically as recruiting places. They offer lots of content, but what they are really are looking for is suppliers. There is a sort of bartering system in place on IRC. If you have access to some unreleased item or can provide bandwidth you get recruited. Once you get recruited, you get showered in free stuff. As long as you keep producing, you keep getting. The bots are really just a bait tactic to recruit new people. Sure the bottom feeders like them, but that's really superfluous. I could go on to explain curriers, dumps, and ratios, but that's another discussion. During my younger days I often traveled in these dark underground arenas. Fortunately, I moved on. The point i'm trying to make is that most IRC traffic is illegal by volume, but IRC has plenty of other great uses. There is no real way to analyze the exact ratio or amount that is illegal.
  • This entire study is flawed simply because the author is using math to justify his conclusion, but his variables are all meaningless and arbitrary.

    If he had instead wrote a simple script for his IRC client that would get a list of channels and randomly join say 10 of them with atleast say 10 people in them, then he could start citing numbers as his test cases would have been random, possibly. But the fact is, he completely ignores that the number of small channels is massively larger than the number of gi
  • Word Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tiny69 ( 34486 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @11:56PM (#11428263) Homepage Journal
    He monitored 60 channels for 36 hours for only 4 words - Norton, Symantec, Jasc, and Microsoft.

    He then determines that out of 10588 instances of those words, they were only used 10 times legally. Based on this, he concludes that 99.9% of all IRC traffic is illegal. But he doesn't define what is illegal (other then mention that he's monitoring for warez). He doesn't mention what percentage of these "key words" were in relation to the rest of the conversations. He also doesn't take into account what percentage of the traffic these 60 channels make up out of all of the IRC traffic.

    And this study was for his Ph.D. thesis. I really hope he fails. We don't need Ph.D's that come to wild conclusions based off of the poor analysis of data.

    As someone else mentioned, he went looking for warez and found it.

  • by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:00AM (#11428294) Homepage Journal
    I work as a systems engineer for a large internet service provider in western pa, and I use IRC everyday to chat to co-workers and other admins / engineers for various ISP's all around the country. Ever have a problem with a radius box that you're using to do dial-up authentication? IRC is just about the only place left that you can find people who'll know what the hell your talking about... It's a great place to bounce ideas off of other like-minded / like-employeed people. The other day for example I talked who just took over abuse duties for an ISP in Canada, shared some of my tips and tricks...

    So 99% of IRC traffic is bad? Maybe the bandwidth, because text doesn't use much at all... But I would argue there are many that are using it for legit purposes!
  • The only time I use it is, and occasionally freenode, for #spamassassin, and #wordpress

    I contribute some to mozilla, so I'm there quite a bit...

    but other than that... IRC is just creepy these days.
  • That's not to say I've never done anything questionable on the internet. Hehe. Just look at the porn sites I visit. However, the time that I spend on #distributed on have been for the most part extremely informative and welcoming. They might have a political leaning a bit left of my personal tastes, but the discussions are always enlightening and relevant. I've not seen an IRC channel that is so anti-questionable use as #d, but that's about the only place I go, so the practice may b
  • by bruns ( 75399 ) <bruns&2mbit,com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:05AM (#11428331) Homepage
    Not everyone uses IRC for illegal things. Let me give some great examples of why I use IRC and the advantages I see:

    1. FreeMatrix radio chat for the radio shows

    2. No lame fonts and other stupid things like sound effects - easy to strip out the colors too from the AOL newbies who don't realize how rude it is

    3. No bulky chat clients. Can IRC using only a text based interface if I want to, or even mIRC or the java chat client I have on my website

    4. Ignore, kick, ban, kline, gline, need I say more?

    5. Ability to communicate with alot of the people I work with who normally I can't get in touch with due to distance or expense.

    Theres ALOT of good things going on IRC if you take the time and look. But of course, the GOOD things on IRC wouldn't make for a very interesting or popular story would it?
  • FWIW, I'm developing a software for IRC [], and would like to lay emphasis on the fact that IRC per se is nothing more than regular TCP/IP connections which are not different from HTTP or some P2P protocols on the internet, to counter expected rise of stupid argument such that IRC is inherently bad or IRC should be banned etc. Long live freedom of speech.
  • 99.9% is misleading (Score:4, Informative)

    by SailorFrag ( 231277 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:15AM (#11428404) Homepage
    I'm an admin on the GameSurge IRC network ( I can't really say much about the other networks, but on GameSurge at least, we don't permit warez distribution, among other illegal activities. Our 6 largest channels are for finding games to play, clan channels, or IRC games -- none of these activities are illegal.

    So at the very least, that means that 10% of the channels he looked at aren't used for illegal purposes (presumably he used something like to determine the 10 largest networks, so we'd be in that list).

    I seem to recall that DAL changed their policies to disallow file-sharing channels a while ago. If they're enforcing that, there goes another 10%. A quick glance on shows that the biggest QuakeNet channels aren't for warez either. I didn't check the other networks, but there's probably a couple more that are clean.

    I'll admit it's likely that the biggest channels on some of the other networks will be like he writes, but surely not 99.9%. Less than 70% even!
  • Circa 1989 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by azav ( 469988 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:18AM (#11428428) Homepage Journal
    The first time I user IRC on the VAX/VMS in 1989, I ended up talking to a young man in Berlin who told me the Berlin Wall was going to come down three days before CNN knew about it.

    Every spare minute I had between class, I spent asking what he thought would happen, heard he was scared because the doubts of what would happen next and felt REAL glad I stumbled on IRC while most everyone else was using it to try and scam a date.

    Knowing that something like this tool was able to bring people together across the world for such a world changing event just made me feel unbelievably privileged.

    And I beat CNN with the news. Thanksgiving just meant more that year.
  • I had a whole post written up, but the gaps in the logic used to pick his sample aren't even worth my time to comment on.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:20AM (#11428436) Homepage Journal

    On friday/saturday nights I run a karaoke show where I stream video live over the internet

    I just stretch a bx client across the bottom of the screen, and let folks on the net hang out in a chatroom. What they say in the chatroom, goes up on the screen right below the lyrics for the singers to read.

    Sometimes we get jerks in there. Our #1 rule is no heckling the singers. We figure it takes guts to get up on stage and sing in front of the world, so we try to take care of our singers.

    Luckily, I have a lot of good people watching it for me. The occasional bad comment slips through, but part of the fun is in the banning.

    No warez, none of that junk. Just a cool place. #karaoke
    • Might be interesting to have a Slashdot poll seeing what percentage of us actually use it for legal or illegal purposes.

      I can honestly say I've never done anything on IRC illegal (unless sedition counts).
  • by Garak ( 100517 ) <chris&insec,ca> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:21AM (#11428442) Homepage Journal
    I've been using IRC since 96 and I have quite a circle of friends who I keep in contact with over IRC on private channels. From my home town of 8000 there are around 800 IRC users who just use IRC to keep in touch and find out where the party is at, etc...

    It's also use it for illegal stuff too, like finding weed... (Most people already know who they are dealing with)

    Most of the legit chat is going on in private channels that a circle of friends inhabit that will never show up on /list or in a /whois. The only way you could gather stats on these users is to sniff the traffic of the server. The legit chat channels are usually +s because you don't want to be overrun by newbies or 1337 kiddies.

    MSN has put a big dent in the number of new IRCers, a few years ago IRC was growing big time but then people started to switch to MSN and the newbies followed likeing the simpler(?) interface.

    Warez, MP3's and movies have moved off IRC for the most part and onto the p2p networks for the masses. Its only a few 1000 kids left running xdcc bots and fservs. Then you have the release groups who you will never meet on IRC unless you know someone. I'd have to guess there are a few IRC servers only accessable over SSH where the real big shit is going down.
  • We use IRC at my work to communicate between techs at different call centers and other markets.

    Most of the time it's us BSing around, but when I was green, I was told by people within my office that the error, "Operation was performed on something that is not a socket" wasn't winsock and we had to refer customers back to thier OEMs for OS repair.

    That was quickly fixed.
  • by ThisIsFred ( 705426 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:38AM (#11428575) Journal
    Don't fall for this trick! The folks conducting the study had a hunch, and looked for the specific metric that would make their case. The case being that IRC is worthless because it's mostly used for illegal activities.

    Obviously large file transfers are going to consume more bandwidth than casual chatting. But what about other metrics? How about if they counted the number of human users on IRC performing illegal activities versus those users that are just there to communicate? How about if it counted the number of connected hours used for legal communication as opposed to number of connected hours used to initiate DCC transfers (not monitored or controlled by IRC ops) of illegally copied material? My guess is that the study would show the opposite result.

    It's just like the old statistic that airline travel is the safest. You'll hear that quoted a lot, but no one ever mentions the metric. It just so happens the metric is "safest per mile traveled." An airliner designed to go long distances at 550 mph obviously has the advantage here. Compare it by number of individual trips or hours spent traveling, and it turns out that the chance of fatality is about the same (or more).

  • Positive use of IRC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CySurflex ( 564206 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @02:08AM (#11429063)
    we use IRC as the official chatroom of G4 TV. For the less experienced user we offer a java chat client [] (open source app called PJIRC) that connects them automatically to the correct server and channel. The more experienced users connect via their IRC client of choice - which makes for a nice balance.

    The chatroom usually has around 100-150 people, except for when the The Screen Savers is taped live every day at 4PM PST where the room spikes at 300-400 people. Users in the chatroom interact with the hosts on live TV and the live show incorporate user comments from the channel.

    I'd say we definitely make good use, legal and positive, of IRC!

  • by McDutchie ( 151611 ) on Friday January 21, 2005 @04:40AM (#11429624) Homepage

    From the article:

    IRC is a big, dangerous city full of crime.

    This is misleading nonsense because IRC is a protocol, not a community. There are hundreds or thousands of IRC networks out there, including a few big ones. IRC is a number of big cities plus lots of small towns. I happen to frequent this nice small town [] where people are mostly friendly, children are welcome, and warez and sex channels are forbidden (this is enforced). Just goes to show that the article is one big misleading generalization with sensationalism as its only purpose.

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0