Friday, August 30, 2013

Meet IRC Cloud, an always connected IRC bouncer that is synced wherever you go

In addition to setting up Techman's World IRC, one of the IRC Clients that I have been using lately is IRC Cloud. IRC Cloud is essentially an always connected bouncer that you can connect to from their web or mobile apps (currently). All actions in the web and/or mobile apps are always synced everywhere.

IRC Cloud is created and powered by two people, RJ and James. RJ works on the backend of IRC Cloud, written in Erlang. James works on the front end interface, written in JavaScript. There is also other folks who work on the mobile apps, such as Sam.

Even though being around for a few years, IRC Cloud is still in beta and is invite only. However, IRC Cloud is a very stable service and has over 13000 users to date. As a fun fact, RJ was the founder of

Here is a screenshot of my IRC Cloud setup, with sensitive info and other networks blured out. I installed a custom theme to put the channel list on the left, instead of on the right with the user list.
Here is a screenshot of my IRC Cloud setup, with sensitive info and other networks blured out. I installed a custom theme to put the channel list on the left, instead of on the right with the user list.
IRC Cloud is primarily accessed through a web interface that runs in just about any Gecko and WebKit browser. Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera 15+ are supported. Since IRC Cloud has been around, the user interface has been mostly the same. More changes that were made were added features, performance improvements, and fixing bugs.

Although not entirely practical because of the mobile nature, IRC Cloud can and will do well if only access though a mobile device, but you'll have to accept your invite via the web app first.

IRC Cloud contains many features that helps to make your IRC experience as customized and relaxing as possible. I personally have mine configured with a custom theme and the setting to show channel prefixes set to on. Those are the "~,&,@,&, and +" in front of a user's nickname. Since I am channel owner in the channel above, I have a ~ prefixed in front of my nick instead of a dot by default.

IRC Cloud supports almost every standard channel and user mode, with the exception of custom channel modes on some servers. Modes that IRC Cloud is not familiar with will display a debug response to be reported to #feedback on IRC Cloud's network. All IRC commands are supported though the use of /quote and /raw if necessary, although IRC Cloud has many useful alias' to use if you wish. An example would to use /j instead of /join. Personally I don't find them very useful, but if you do then that's a plus.

IRC Cloud also has option drop downs in channels and server windows that allow you to tweak settings that may/may not depend on what the selected window is (example: server window or channel).

Upgrade your account pop up -- IRC Cloud
While IRC Cloud is in beta, service is free for everyone is generally unrestricted. This means that you can join an unlimited amount of networks, etc. When the services becomes stable and becomes majority-subscription only, you will have to pay $12/month as of this post to get the unlimited tier. Above is a screenshot of the current pricing plans as of this post, subject to changes. 

Adding a network
Adding a network to connect to via IRC Cloud is really easy. In the IRC Cloud web app, just click "Add a Network" at the bottom of the screen. In the mobile apps you can find the option to add a network in the menu.

In the IRC Cloud web app, I am also pleased to announce that Techman's World IRC is an officially featured network on IRC Cloud. In the "Choose a network..." entry box, click the drop down triangle and scroll down. Techman's World should be somewhere at the bottom of the list. By default it is configured to use SSL too :).

IRC Cloud acts as a BNC like already mentioned, so IRC Cloud does log channels. IRC Cloud logs all activity in the channels that are you in, as well as private messages sent to you when you are disconnected from the internet, and have them ready for you as soon as you come back. Currently there is no way to export logs as text files, but that is a feature that is on the to-do list for IRC Cloud. If you wish to keep text logs, you can simply copy and paste from the browser.

After parting channels, you are given the option to archive that channel's activity to be retrieved at a later date. Currently archives are stored until you delete them. While in private messages, you can always archive a conversation.

Some downsides
Although IRC Cloud is a great service and web IRC client, there are a few downsides to it I think should be mentioned. One of those downsides is that if you store your NickServ password and on connect commands in IRC Cloud, they are stored unencrypted. IRC Cloud's explanation for this is that since these commands and passwords have to be sent to the server unencrypted, it makes no sense to encrypt them. However, your account passwords are encrypted.

Some business theory
One potential downside to IRC Cloud becoming a subscription only service is trying to get already existent users to subscribe and keep using the service. I'm not a 100% business man but I know enough to know that if IRC Cloud doesn't have a killer feature or something to make the product stand out from everyone else, getting paid subscriptions will be harder than it has to be. Especially since there are many, many free IRC clients out there that are easy to use, and are free.

Themes + API
IRC Cloud does provide an API for integrating IRC Cloud into your own custom applications, and it also supports theming capability. While no default theme system has been added yet,  you can install style scripts from or create your own using their Stylish extension.

As you can see in the screen shot earlier in the article, I have a custom theme installed to put the channel list on the left side of the screen, like in HexChat.

Mobile Apps
IRC Cloud currently has iOS and Android apps. Those too are always being worked on and improved. I use the Android app because I use an Android. Can't really comment about the iOS app because I don't use it, but I would assume that it works very well based on other user's feedback.