Well, the IRC format has to follow a certain protocol...it has to. And really, as you say, it doesn't need to be changed because it's pretty much perfect - I mean, I'm sure people could point out some boring little thing that nobody cares about (they usually do), but on the whole it's perfect. The whole point of the actual IRC engine is to let users send messages to one another, and be able to receive messages from other users, be it a human, bot or machine (i.e. a server). Also, it's job is to display somewhere the nicknames that are in the channel and various other things that it all fulfills.
Rarely, people take any actual notice of this. In fact, what has changed so rapidly and massively is the clients that run IRC, mIRC being a prime example - and they do
need to advance further, because they certainly aren't perfect and people notice them more. In fact, because of the popularity of mIRC, you'll notice even on these boards that some people don't realise that you're connecting to "IRC" - they think you're connecting to "mIRC".
The future? Hmm, I don't think the structure will change, or if it does, it won't be anything dramatic. I am worried about the problem of DDoS attacks that are making ISP's and businesses think twice (or thrice) before even considering donating a server to a network - especially as really, they gain nothing from it except a small bit of advertising. On the other hand, I see the IRC world fighting against these - I believe new procedures and technologies will provide a better way to fight against DDoS attacks and prevent them. Unfortunately, like most things on the Internet, as soon as we find a fix for it, they'll find a new way to abuse, and a lot of the time it's even worse than the last. It's a never-ending cycle. Or at least it is until ISP's (AOL being an example) and even Governments wake up and realise the seriousness of the situation. Hopefully, once they've had a few years of their defense systems going down every month, they'll start to realise and take reports of infected hosts more seriously. Which brings me on to another point - nowadays, anyone can get a computer. I know a 6 year old girl with a computer with broadband Internet and she is let to roam free on it. A message could flash up saying "YOU HAVE A VIRUS" and she would just close the window and continue heh. Until Internet users as a whole wake up and smell the coffee, and start to actually take precautions to stop viruses, infected machines will not completely wipe out - even with the effors of ISP's. However, it seems no matter how much the IRC community tries to prevent viruses from being spread, and how infected users can clean and protect themselves, people just don't seem to get the message. I assume this is because of two reasons:
1) Most of the messages that are sent to warn people about viruses and to warn them not to download files off of strangers or visit websites, are released in official notices by companies or IRC networks and therefore, written in perfect English. Many people won't be able to understand the words in it, and will probably get half way through reading it and think, "bah, this is boring I can't be bothered to work out what it says."
2) They simply don't care.
The latter is probably the more common. Because many viruses, particularly IRC-related ones don't actually do any noticeable damage to your computer, people don't care. They may run background processes which mean your machine is sending things like GTbots to networks, but what do they care? They don't notice it. They might be spamming infected websites which contain more serious viruses to other users...but hey, it doesn't affect them!
This is the sort of behaviour that's going to cause problems, and I don't see it clearing up in the near
However, people do keep ranting on about the end of IRC, the end of mIRC and all that. To be honest, I think it's a possibility - but a very small one. There's always a possibility of most things...a bomb could drop on my house as soon as I submit this post, but it's not going to :P - Sure, if all servers decide to delink because of the aforementioned reasons, then it's a possibility. But the thing is, many of the server admins of networks, and network admins themselves, either own their own hosting companies or have friends that do, so they can always provide servers. DALnet is a prime example...it had quite a few servers linked quickly, some might call them "emergency" servers but that's not quite correct.
Anyway, I'm digressing, that's not even happened yet so let's not go there heh. I, in all seriousness, do not think that IRC Is going to end, nor do I think Khaled or Krejt or anyone else involved in the making, testing and contributing of mIRC are suddenly going to pack up and leave.
IRC cannot simply end. 500,000 people, on average, are using the biggest networks at any one time. (Actually, at the time of typing, it's 548,086). I'd knock off about 100,000 to take into account bots, particularly in the case of QuakeNet (because they allow so many clones - 4 connections from one host) and EFnet (because they still
). So, 400,000 on the top 5 networks alone. I don't think it can simply end that easily. Either it would slowly, but surely, be started up again, or, a new (perhaps better?) way to chat would be thought up. I am however, confident that IRC will live to see it's 20th anniversary
These are points I've brought up on various Forums (Remember IRCForums?) and I'm sure there are plenty of more people that want to say something that I've not mentioned above (probably cause I've had 6 hours sleep and can't be bothered *G*). I think I'll stop aimlessly droning on now heh.
Just my 2 (or 10) pennies worth