Interview with Jarkko Oikarinen

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Question: This interview will last approximately one hour long. We have set up rules for channel behavior during this interview.
Question: Please do not change your nickname during the interview as it causes a constant disturbance.
Question: Please do not /msg the ops in this channel. They are extremely busy.
*** David-R sets mode: +o repus
Question: Failure to meet any of the previous guidelines will result in a kick and a ban from this channel.
Question: You will not be allowed back in. In the event of a disturbance, netsplit, flooding, or desynches, we will pause the interview until the necessary action can take place.
Question: We will begin the interview session with Jarkko Oikarinen in a few moments.
Question: Welcome to the Undernet Public Relations Committee's Live Events Interview Auditorium.
Question: We have a very special guest tonight, Jarkko Oikarinen. Jarkko Oikarinen is known as the creator of IRC as he developed and tested it in 1988.
Question: Jarkko has been kind enough to take this time out of his busy schedule to be with us tonight.
Question: As most of you already know, the Undernet Public Relations Interview Staff sent out many invitations for users to send in their questions to be asked during the interview.
Question: The best and most appealing 25 questions have been selected carefully by the staff. We will ask one question, wait for an answer from Jarkko, and then proceed with the next.
Question: We will now begin the interview session. Sit back, relax, and get ready for an exciting hour.
Question: (1) You haven't been seen or heard from much in half a decade but have now decided to appear in this online conference. Is there any specific reason for the time chosen? Does it have anything to do with Microsoft's intents to enter the IRC scene? -- Donwulff
Jarkko: (1): There is no specific reason for this time, except that during
*** BONK sets mode: +o lithe
Jarkko: (2): 1993-1996 I was working abroad (Sweden and France), not spending much
Jarkko: (3): time on IRC or in Internet in general. I just happen to be a little bit
*** David-R changes topic to "Jarkko Oikarinen interview"
Jarkko: (4): more around now than before.
*** danielle sets mode: +o play
Question: (2) Did you come up with IRC just because you were frustrated by the limitations of talk, or were there other reasons? -- Kev
Question: NOTE: Kev is an active Undernet IRCu Coder
Jarkko: (2): I believe that IRC came up because there was a clear need
Jarkko: (3): for it. It was not to replace talk.. the purpose of talk is different.
Jarkko: (4): The original purpose of IRC was more like to provide
Jarkko: (5): similar features that existed on BITNET and DECNET, ie.
Jarkko: (6): bitnet chat system and the DECNET phone.
*** sets mode: +o GoiNK
Question: (3) Why do you think people are attracted to IRC? -- Tsu
Jarkko: (3): What makes IRC special is the sense of anonymity. The only things that you often know of the other person, are those that you can conclude from the discussions.
Question: (4) When you created IRC, what was the maximum number of users at the same time that you made allowance for? -- Run
Question: NOTE: Run is an active Undernet IRCu Coder
>>> NETSPLIT <<<
Question: We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. A problem has been encountered in our network feed from Jarkko Oikarinen.
Question: Please be patient until we re-establish a connection.
bethie: We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. A problem has been encountered in our network feed from Jarkko Oikarinen.
bethie: Please be patient until we re-establish a connection.
Question: (5) The protocol is now being used on networks with approximately 20,000 simultaneous connections. If you knew then what you know now, would you have restructured ircd differently? -- Kev
Jarkko: Of course... the structure of the world wide web is much more scalable than IRC. I believe IRC will integrate into the web.. or at least the functionality of IRC, it has already started to happen.
*** X sets mode: +o bethie`
Question: Having the IRC channels being listed on web pages would allow each channel to have it's own well routing small net. (thats to number 5)
Jarkko: Having the IRC channels being listed on web pages would allow each channel to have it's own well routing small net. (thats to number 5)
Jarkko: number 4: It was not that well planned, but perhaps somewhere around 100 users.
Question: (5) The protocol is now being used on networks with approximately 20,000 simultaneous connections. If you knew then what you know now, would you have restructured ircd differently? -- Kev
Jarkko: again.. ok.. Of course... the structure of the world wide web is much more scalable than IRC. I believe IRC will integrate into the web.. or at least the functionality of IRC,
Jarkko: it has already started to happen. Having the IRC channels being listed on web pages would allow each channel to have it's own well routing small net.
Question: (6) How long did it take originally to code the source for ircd? -- NudeDude
Jarkko: The first versions which were tested within Finland were coded in maybe 3-4 months, with help from several other people in Finland.
Question: (7) A lot of clients are introducing features such as color and sound on a client level that are not RFC-compliant. Do you think these sorts of commands should be at server level? -- saad
Jarkko: No, I think they belong to the client level. There is no need for the server to interpret the data people send to each other.
Jarkko: There should, however, be some well-defined standards for this so that the clients will be compatible with each other.
Question: (8) The original IRC RFC, RFC1459, relies on the rather questionable authentication method of sending passwords in the clear. Knowing what you know now, would you have done this differently by perhaps using some form of cryptography? -- Kev
Jarkko: Not necessarily.. Naturally it is better to encrypt passwords, but if that would have meant several manmonths more work, I would have skipped it.
Jarkko: In fact encrypting all irc messages, including conversations was considered at some point. My reason for not doing it was the amount of work
Jarkko: and knowledge that is needed to implement good cryptography routines. -oo-
Question: (9) Have you heard about the new Microsoft RFC? and if so, what do you think of it? -- }{obbes
Jarkko: ... Humm... that's a tricky question :-) I am not familiar with the Microsoft RFC, so I do not have a strong opinion on that as such. I have some thoughts about Internet standards, and they may or may not apply to this...
Jarkko: I believe that Internet standards should be designed by a consortium of Internet users (or possibly by many companies), not by any single company alone (ie. dictated).
Jarkko: he problem with a company making a standard usually is that nobody else will be able to conform to the 'standard', thus limiting free trade and free competition... it is a little like companies making the laws in internet instead of
Jarkko: representatives elected by people.. -o-
Question: (10) IRC Operators nowadays face a major problem when banning users: Dynamic IP numbers. They usually have to ban entire sites. What do you think should be done to solve this problem for good? -- Net_Shark
Jarkko: I don't have any good solution on irc level, besides changing the complete IRC server structure to have more loose connections, ie. similar to the web. That way abusers can make less damage.
Jarkko: -o-
Question: (11) Do you use IRC to chat online, and if so, how often? Which networks do you like and why? What services do you think an IRC network should offer; e.g. NickServ and Channel Services? -- }{obbes
Jarkko: I do not use IRC very much anymore. I am logged on quite a lot, but I rarely engage in conversations, except with some old acquintances.
Jarkko: I do not prefer any network above others, except of course the 'original' net (EFnet).. and this is just purely historical reasons, not because it would be somehow better (nor worse) than others...
Jarkko: I do not have a strong opinion about services, e.g. NickServ, but I would prefer NickServ to exist. It is not a solution to the nickname problem, (9-character nicknames for 5 billion people cannot be a solution) but perhaps
Jarkko: a little better with than without -o-
Question: (12) How do you feel now that nine years down the line, almost every document on the history of the Internet mentions your name? -- Donwulff
Jarkko: Hum.. IRC is the accomplishment of all IRC users and developers during the last 9 years. The small snowball of original IRC which I had the privilege to create has grown this large because of all IRC users and developers...
Jarkko: thank you for that :-) -o-
Question: (13) IRC is now being utilized by many educational facilities online, not only for schools and universities to come online, but networks are offering classes for new users to IRC. What is your opinion on IRC's potential as a useful tool for educational purposes, and what do you see in the future regarding the use of IRC as a "virtual classroom"? -- ExtraRed
Jarkko: In general I feel that teleconferences (including video and audio) are better teaching tools than IRC. The throughput is much better when the communication channel can include live gestures, tones of voice, etc.
Jarkko: IRC is better as a quick-paced discussion tool, where people throw n comments while simultaneusly working with something else.
Jarkko: There may be some smaller areas where IRC is best suited as an educational tool... -o-
Question: (14) Are you still keeping up to date with the current developments? If so, what is your opinion about the fact that there are now multiple IRC protocols (i.e. EFnet/Undernet) that are growing further and further apart? -- Run
Question: NOTE: Run is an active Undernet IRCu Coder
Jarkko: I am not following the latest developments. In my opinion it is good for IRC that there are many networks. It is a wrong direction, if the protocols grow apart so that a user does not familiarize him/herself in another network an
Jarkko: d the IRC clients are no longer compatible within different networks. -o-
Question: (15) How do you feel about the changes to the original IRC code? -- MadCat
Jarkko: I think that all the people who have been helping IRC's success by improving the code have been doing a very good work. Some more, some less, but everyone has contributed. -o-
Question: (16) Do you see any way of stabilizing the servers or somehow providing for increased population? -- Goldenrod
Jarkko: Changing to a more web-like structure, ie. having many smaller irc networks, which would be connected to each other by a loose structure, leading to a situation where all servers do not need to be aware of each other,
Jarkko: contrary to current situation... -o-
Question: (17) Do you think IRC will be around in 20 years? 10 years? 5 years? -- LGM
Jarkko: I think IRC will probably be around many more years, but it will evolve and integrate with other software in the internet.. how much of the original IRC is left at that point, I do not know. -o-
Question: (18) Did you ever imagine IRC in addition to being a method for people to chat in realtime would also become a place for flooders, stalkers, harassers, and just generally disturbed people to congregate as well? -- AngelBaby
Jarkko: These kind of things are in the nature of people and I think it is inevitable to some extent. IRC is just one media for these activities. -o-
Question: (19) What is your opinion on the use of the DCC feature to distribute and promote illegal activities such as child pornography and software piracy. -- BONK
Jarkko: I do not accept these illegal activities. However, I do not think IRC is to blame.. if there were no IRC, these activities would take place somewhere else. Any useful tool can be used for good and bad. Don't shoot the messenger... -o-
Question: (20) Did you ever imagine that IRC would grow to become a tool for fostering friendships, relationships, and even act as a medium for people to find God? -- }{obbes
Jarkko: not really.. when I worked with it, I was developing a chat tool.It just turned out that people found much deeper use for it than what it was originally meant for.. -o-
Question: (21) Looking almost ten years back, what would you have done differently, if you knew what you know now? What do you see as the future for IRC? -- Donwulff and Goldenrod
Jarkko: There are many things that could have been done, but the reality is that implementing all nice things that came up would have taken incredible amount of time and IRC would not exist now... as for the future, I mentioned that it will
Jarkko: likely merge with other internet software.
Jarkko: -o-
Question: (22) If you could change one thing about how IRC has progressed since you founded it, what would it be? -- cpw
Jarkko: I would have been wiser in taking into account the scalability problems of current IRC, especially the nicknames would need to be taken care within the clients instead of servers.
Jarkko: The security problem in channels is another thing which could have been better designed. -o-
Question: (23) What do you envision as the next step beyond IRC in network communications? -- NudeDude
Jarkko: It can already be seen in the VRLM worlds, with people being represented as avatars, live audio and live video communications.. another step towards cyberspace.. -o-
Question: (24) Will you be involved in future enhancements to the IRC protocol? -- Net_Shark
Jarkko: I do not think so.. right now I am working towards by PhD and it really consumes all my time. I will be listening but not actively participating... -o-
Question: (25) How has developing IRC changed your life? -- Tsu
Jarkko: It has opened my eyes to see and understand people from different cultures. I have made many friends around the world, which I would not have made without IRC. There are lots of people who have met through IRC and went married...
Jarkko: -o-
Question: This concludes the interview portion of this event. A log of this interview will be available via HelpBot,, and tomorrow.
Question: Please direct all comments to
Question: We will now open the channel up for a 10-minute question and answer session from members of our audience.
Question: We will unmoderate the channel, please ask a question that has not been previously asked and wait patiently.
Question: Due to time constraints, Jarkko Oikarinen will not be able to answer all audience questions. We ask that you please understand.
*** David-R sets mode: -m
DShadow: jarkko- Why did you decide to limit nicknames to 9 characters?
*** David-R sets mode: -i
Jarkko: zenwolfie: as I answered before in the future question, yes I believe such thing will happen, but I do not know if it will be called IRC anymore. -o-
Jarkko: pingo: no money whatsoever.. -o-
sigge: Also do you realise that the IRC is the first communicator that allows deaf/dumb/handicapped people to speak with others in the same language ?
Jarkko: sigge: Not really.. weren't talk, phone, bitnet chat and some other chat systems around before irc. IRC just had distributed servers which allowed it to spread around -o-
*** David-R sets mode: +m
Question: Thank you for participating in our interview session. This concludes the interview with Jarkko Oikarinen.
Question: We thank him deeply for the time he has taken out of his busy schedule to be with us here this evening for this very special event.
Jarkko: thank you all irc users and developers.
Question: We hope you had a very entertaining and educational experience tonight. We will now unmoderate the channel for general comments and chat.
Question: Remember, all comments should be directed to Thank you.
David-R: We'd like to thank the following people for making this possible: Bethie, David-R, ExtraRed, Ferrago and WAVMaster.
David-R: The Undernet Public Relations Committee continues in a striving effort to familiarize and educate the users of the Undernet Internet Relay Chat Network.
David-R: The following people have made great contributions to the Undernet IRC server code for which they are recognized:
David-R: Kev, WildThang, SeKs, Xorath, Nemesi, record, Ghostwolf, Ensor, Niels, Cym, Starfox, Joseph, and most especially Run.
David-R: Run has volunteered thousands of hours of work on the server code making over 100 patches, for a total of over two million bytes of patches.
David-R: Thank you all, and have a great evening.

© 1997 Undernet User Committee
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