Thursday, May 06, 2004

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > The Internet's Wilder Side

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > The Internet's Wilder Side "Even as much of the Internet has come to resemble a pleasant, well-policed suburb, a little-known neighborhood known as Internet Relay Chat remains the Wild West. While copyright holders and law enforcement agencies take aim at their adversaries on Web sites and peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like Napster, I.R.C. remains the place where people with something to hide go to do business.
When I.R.C. started in the 1980's, it was best known as a way for serious computer professionals worldwide to communicate in real time. It is still possible - though sometimes a bit difficult - to find mature technical discussions among the tens of thousands of I.R.C. chat rooms, known as channels, operating at any one time. There are also respectable I.R.C. systems and channels - some operated by universities or Internet service providers - for gamers seeking opponents or those who want to talk about sports or hobbies.
Still, I.R.C. perhaps most closely resembles the cantina scene in "Star Wars'': a louche hangout of digital smugglers, pirates, curiosity seekers and the people who love them (or hunt them). There seem to be I.R.C. channels dedicated to every sexual fetish, and I.R.C. users speculate that terrorists also use the networks to communicate in relative obscurity. Yet I.R.C. has its advocates, who point to its legitimate uses."
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