From shlomifish.org:

Note that one common mistake that newcomers to IRC do is to private-message a user that helps them (using the /msg command) instead of keeping the discussion on the [IRC] channel.

(Emphasis added.)

Should it be “on the channel” or “in the channel”?

In case you are not familiar with IRC (Internet Relay Chat), then the longer story is that the chat rooms on the various IRC networks are called “channels” in the IRC parlance, and one can speak on (in?) them. Thing is "keep the discussion on the chat-room" sounds weird to me, and "keep the discussion in the chat room" sounds better. I've usually always said "on the channel" when chatting on IRC and so far no one complained, but a commentator on the text in question said he thought it should be "in the channel".

I'm not a native speaker of English, so insights would be welcome.

  • They mean (slightly) different things. Use on to mean using the IRC, in general. Use in to emphasize keeping within the confines of IRC (than go out of it and use PM). – Kris Feb 7 '14 at 8:56

They're both used, because there are two common metaphors used in IRC.

One is that you are talking on a medium that allows you to communicate. Of course this is literally true, but the metaphor comes in in the filtering that means you only see communications on a particular channel; the metaphorical allusion is to using a particular range of radio frequencies.

The other is that you are talking in a place, comparable to being physically in each others company.

While the former metaphor is the one officially endorsed by the name channel being used as the term of art in RFC 2812 and most IRC clients, the latter would seem to be the one that is most often used.

For this reason, I'd lean toward using in; even if "in a channel" is mixed metaphor, IRC is old enough at this point that people don't think of the metaphorical origins much, if at all.


I believe the correct usage would be "in" IRC (Internet Relay Chat). IRC calls each of its conversation areas "rooms", implying a virtual space. You would be ON the service, talking IN the chat room.

"I was on IRC last night, talking in the linux room when..."

  • 2
    Agree with in IRC, in a room, and on the service, but this does not address OP's [in|on] a channel question. (It is on a channel, as it comes from the radio domain) – Jim Feb 6 '14 at 15:04
  • Jim is right, that's what I was asking. – Shlomi Fish Feb 6 '14 at 21:25

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