I made a post giving real statistics on this a few years ago, but I figure I'll update it here. In short, your observations are heavily misleading and lacking in context.
IRC is only in decline relative to the unprecedented and enormous
influx of users that started using IRC between 2002-2004. Not that I can draw a correlation, but fun fact: Napster closed in 2000/2001-- that's about the time that users started connecting to IRC in droves. Again, not drawing any conclusions, but it is an interesting coincidence. IF
that correlation does in fact represent the cause, then some of those extra users weren't really online for "IRC" anyway.
But in any case, IRC is still larger than it was in 2000, prior to the 2002-2004 boom. IRC isn't "in decline" so much as it is stabilizing "post-bubble". Here are the oldies:
In almost all of those graphs, the levels in 2012 are still higher than in 2000, though there is a slight perpetual decline. That slight decline, however, can be accounted for, even if some of those users are in fact leaving IRC-- because many new users are joining. See below.
First, there's QuakeNet
, which is probably large enough to single handedly scoop up the majority of the user loss in the last few years. Although the graph shows it in a steady decline, it's important to realize that it is currently by far the largest IRC network:
Then there is Freenode
, which has grown steadily and significantly
over the last decade. It's growing at a rate that seems to exceed the decline rate of most of the major networks combined:
There are also networks like Rizon
have also seen stability, if not growth, in the last few years:
And finally, companies like Ustream and justin.tv are starting to use IRC as their backend for all chatter, so IRC is still being adopted on large scales, just in less obvious ways. For reference, Ustream
's network has looked pretty healthy (the variability is due to the temporal nature of live streams, so the wild usage spikes are a reality of the medium):
All I see from these graphs is stabilization, and maybe some migration of user types
. The devs are coming back to IRC, and the casual/warez users are leaving. Gaming users are a little more interesting-- QuakeNet is in decline, but gaming-heavy sites like justin.tv and ustream are growing, so it might just be a migration, not an emigration.