User:K6ka/IRC handbook/IRC bouncers

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On IRC, a bouncer (often shortened to "BNC") is a program that allows a user to stay connected to IRC indefinitely, even when they go offline or turn off their computer. The bouncer is typically run on a dedicated server that is on 24/7, and acts as a "middleman" between the IRC server and the computer of the IRC user.

There are many different IRC bouncer programs out there, but the most commonly used program is ZNC, which is still being developed. If you have the hardware and technical expertise to set it up, you can download it from their official website.

How a bouncer works[edit]

File:How an irc bouncer works.png
Diagram of how an IRC bouncer works, taken from the ZNC website.

Normally, when you connect to IRC, you connect to the IRC server directly. As such, you send data directly to the IRC server, and the IRC server sends data directly to you. When you exit your client, disconnect your computer from the Internet, or turn off your computer, however, your connection with the IRC server is lost.

An IRC bouncer changes this. Instead of you connecting to the IRC server directly, your IRC bouncer will connect to the IRC server. Once a connection is established, the bouncer maintains that connection and logs data the IRC server sends to it, such as channel messages and private messages sent to you. When you want to hop on IRC, you connect to your IRC bouncer rather than the IRC server. The bouncer will then forward the information it logged to your client. This essentially means that an IRC bouncer can be used to see messages that were sent while you were offline. When you disconnect, you will close the connection between you and your bouncer, but your bouncer will remain connected to the IRC server, so it can continue to log information, ready to present you with it the next time you connect.

IRC bouncers essentially act as proxies between you and the IRC server. The IRC server cannot see who is behind the bouncer using it; it will assume that the bouncer is the client. When you connect to IRC via a bouncer, the bouncer's hostname or IP address will be visible to the server, and will be displayed when people do a /whois lookup on you. However, the server can't see past the bouncer, so your computer's hostname or IP address will be hidden. Thus, a bouncer is useful for those concerned about their privacy on IRC, as by default, your hostname or IP address is visible to everyone.

How do I set one up?[edit]

Of course, an IRC bouncer isn't "magic". It's just like any other computer program; if the computer you're running it on is turned off, then obviously the bouncer won't run, and you can't connect to IRC with it.

As mentioned, there are many different bouncer programs out there, and each one of them has their own instructions for installation. Generally speaking, however, IRC bouncers were meant to be run on web servers, not home computers, as web servers are designed to run for days, weeks, even months on end, while your home computer is subject to being turned off for various reasons (You should turn off your home computer anyway, when you sleep. Save some electricity). IRC bouncers also generally work best on Linux, and since Windows wasn't meant for you to run for days on end anyway, you probably won't find much of a use for it if you have your thoughts on installing it onto a box at home. Lastly, IRC bouncers are advanced IRC stuff; if you're new to IRC, you shouldn't be getting an IRC bouncer just yet. It will most likely not be worth the resources and hassle.

If you don't want to or know how to set an IRC bouncer up, don't worry: there are a number of BNC providers that host the servers and run the software for you, so all you need to do is set up your account and your IRC details, and you can connect with your favourite client straight away. Some are free, some are not; some have great user support, some have crappy user support; some are quite nice, some are plain awful. You can also poke a friend or another IRC user that runs their own bouncer to see if they can make room for you.

Please note that, if you are using a bouncer someone else is hosting for you, your use of the bouncer is entirely at your own risk. An untrusted BNC provider may steal your passwords, install a virus onto your computer, and blow your house to smithereens! Jokes aside, you're taking a risk by using someone else's bouncer, so make sure you trust your friend or the staff of the BNC provider with your information!

BNC providers we can recommend