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In irc (internet relay chat) documentation I see the terms 'network' and 'server' but not clearly distinguished.

Is there a distinction, or do they refer to the same thing? And/or does this distinction matter which irc network one is referring to?

When documentation says to connect to an irc server, do they loosely, or rather mean: connect to an irc network, (as I'm guessing that networks are collections of servers)?

Or do they mean to connect to a specific server?

I'm trying to get a better handle on how to use IRC, but like with anything that's been there for many years, sometimes the most obvious things are not clear to new people.

Thanks.

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An IRC server has the meaning you'd expect: it's a single machine that's running an IRC daemon which you can connect to.

An IRC network is a group of IRC servers which are linked together. When servers are linked into a network, they behave like a single large server -- usernames and channels are shared within the network, and you can communicate with users on other servers within the network without any special steps. Users still connect to individual servers, but it's as if they are connected to the whole network.

Most large IRC networks are configured such that normal users don't need to think about individual servers. There will typically be names in DNS which can be used to connect to an arbitrary available server, e.g. "irc.example.com" to connect to any server, "us.irc.example.com" to connect to a server in the US, or so on.

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