Hey, Cool Hostname!

Tired of being @earthlink.net? Bored of being @aol.com? Sick of being @home.com? Did you know that you can change your hostname on IRC? Well, you can, and it's not hard to do at all.

On IRC, your hostname is almost the equivalent of the license plate on your car. It identifies you to admins and bots and other users. If you do a /whois on your nickname, the part after the @ will be your hostname. Here's what a typical /whois result looks like, if the person is using an AOL hostname. The hostname is in bold.

juliebug is juliebug@AC90030D.ipt.aol.com * Julie Martin
juliebug on @#chatting
juliebug on irc.goodchatting.com Good Chatting to you!
juliebug has been idle 35secs, signed on Tues Jan 7 19:06:24
juliebug End of /WHOIS list.

So what's the equivalent of a "vanity" plate? Simple. Virtual hosts, which are called vhosts.

A vhost can change what you saw above into something like:

juliebug is juliebug@flunked.my.final.ex.am * Julie Martin
juliebug is juliebug@doesnt.use.windows.anymore.net * Julie Martin

What happens is that people buy the domain names (ex.am and anymore.net) and then add the "fun" parts of the name in. So flunked.my.final.ex.am actually resolves to a computer out there.

There is, of course, a catch.

For the most part, the only people providing vhosts for IRC are shell providers, such as JEAH Communications (which happens to be the one I use). So you have to get an account with one of these shell providers.

The other hitch? Without an IRC bouncer (or BNC), you'll have to use the IRC client provided with the shell account. Usually, that means ircii, although the feature-laden BitchX is very popular with most shells.

Frankly, I encourage everyone to try out ircii a couple of times. Get back to IRC basics with the text client. Make use of the /help command -- it's how I started out on IRC, about six years ago. And if it means you get a cool hostname, all the better.

However, there are some IRC networks out there that can mask your true hostname with anything you want. Back when I was at About.com, the kind folks over at DynastyNet offered to change my hostname to:

juliebug is juliebug@juliebug.writes.for.about.com * Julie Martin

The IRC server software that DynastyNet is running won't resolve the hostname. That's to say, you don't have to own the domain to have a neat hostname. dachmo from DynastyNet let me know that as long as the hostmask a user chooses doesn't violate any network policies, they'll add it, since the IRC server software (the IRCd) will "fake" it. This allows you to use any IRC client you want, without paying for a shell account or running a bnc. This is available here at GoodChatting.com, so mail me if this is something you're interested in.

In short:

  • vhosts are used on shells, and must use a shell IRC client (ircii or BitchX, for example)
  • BNCs (bouncers) can be used on shells with vhosts so that you can use mIRC or other graphical IRC clients to connect to a vhost
  • Some IRC networks (like DynastyNet and GoodChatting.com) run an IRCd that can fake the hostname, so you can make your own vhost


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