Just as http, ftp and other commonly known and used Internet protocols IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is an Internet protocol allowing people to virtually meat each other in theme based channels and exchange text and other type of messages in a synchronized manner. This form of synchronous (real-time) conferencing is mainly designed for group (many-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication and data transfers via private message. See Wikipedia for more.
In the late nineties I have found myself very busy researching the IRC network with my younger brother Lior and a very good friend named Moshe Carmeli. Within the frame of an ambitious project we were trying to promote, we took extreme efforts to convince local venture capital companies that IRC needs to and can be indexed in a real time manner to allow people identifying and accessing live conversations based on their personal interests. Our point was that being an open platform the IRC network host much more users than any other single commercial chat application. To prove this point we used special custom made tools and counted millions of chatters on the network. It was a fantastic experience as if we were discovering a new hidden continent, loaded with gold and oil.
A bit of a bitter taste
As the millennium turned, just a few months before the "Internet bobble" had blown up we got tipped about a project named chatscan by eNow which was being developed by some other group of former Israeli entrepreneurs who practically have the exact same idea. The difference was that - as opposed to us - they had a working model and already got an amazing sum of money form a very respectable investment group so after almost three years and lots of ups and downs we decided to pull of. The adventure left us with a bit of a bitter taste but as we kind of made our point "Communiverse" was left behind and each of us moved forward to his own destiny.
I almost forgot about IRC for a few years now until this morning when i read this. I have already heard that since the iPhone was launched people are on a crazy lookout for web applications to run on their new toy. Almost 10 years have passed since communiverse and chatscan, the Internet went a long way but there is still now way to find IRC chatrooms on a real time content based method. Yet, it was just yesterday when people have actually started logging in to IRC channels using their iPhone devices!
Gearlive.com, a popular tech blog, explains the process of how IRC channels can be accsed using iPhones with this short presentation. I bet if this would work IRC is about to take a huge step forward as millions of new users are about to join. Note that using the method you also need a Mac workstation.