A new IRC client (but don’t call it an IRC client) is being developed by Linux Mint.

The Ubuntu-based distro currently includes Hexchat in its default software set. IRC isn’t as trendy as Discord or Telegram but it is a free, open standard that no single entity controls, is relatively low-bandwidth, interoperable, and efficient.

But as I reported in February: Hexchat is no more.

Hexchat quitting the chat leaves —I so badly want to type leafs there— Linux Mint with a dilemma and an opportunity.

The dilemma being: “should we continue shipping an IRC client, and what role does it serve?” and the opportunity being: “could we replace it with something better?”.


Jargonaut has joined the chat

Jargonaut Linux Mint Chat App
Jargonaut in action

Ever wondered why Linux Mint comes with an IRC client preinstalled? It’s mainly to offer a way for users of the distro to talk to, ask questions, and get support from other users of the distro in (relative) real time.

That sort of chat doesn’t have to happen over IRC, of course. Linux Mint has plenty of support avenues, including a fairly well-trafficked forum.

Since its official IRC channels remain active, with users and developers using them daily to answer questions, offer support, and connect over a shared interest, should the demise of Hexchat have to mean moating of IRC entirely?

That got devs thinking.

As is, IRC isn’t user-friendly. It’s a kind of an arcane magic involving strange commands. Its onboarding is obtuse. And the protocol doesn’t natively support things like media sharing (screenshots are useful when troubleshooting), clickable links, or other modern “niceties”.

And yet, IRC is a fast, established, open, and versatile protocol. It’s not as flashy as Discord but it’s not encumbered by superfluous social excesses or corporate caveats. It’s free and immediate (no sign-up required to use it) which makes it ideal for ‘when you need it’ use.

So work has begun on a new dedicated “chat room” app to replace Hexchat, called Jargonaut.

IRC as a protocol, not a feature

Linux Mint’s goal is not to build a fully-featured IRC client, or even an IRC client at all. Jargonaut is a chat app that just happens to use IRC as its underlying chat protocol.

Users won’t need to know what IRC is nor learn its syntax, as Jargonaut isn’t going to respond to standard IRC commands (or let users join other channels1). When the app is opened Linux Mint’s official support channels are there, ready to engage with.

A real-time support chat app built on IRC — with additional bells:

“[Jargonaut] will support pastebin/imgur via DND, uploading your system specifications, troubleshooting and many features which have nothing to do with IRC,says Linux Mint lead Clement Lefebvre in the distro’s latest monthly update.

“Hexchat was a great IRC client which helped us make a relatively good support chat room. We’re hoping Jargonaut will help us make this chat room even better and much easier to use.”

Sounds interesting!

Like most of Linux Mint’s home-grown XApps the new app is hosted on Github, which is where you should go t to check in on Jargonaut’s current status, check out the code and compile it, or contribute to its development with your own fair hands.

  1. Through the GUI as an advertised end-user feature. It’ll be possible to set which channels the app connects to using gsettings overrides – in theory, users can do that too ↩︎


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