Campfire vs. IRC

8 July, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve now had the opportunity to use both 37signals’ Campfire and IRC at work. With these experiences, I can now provide somewhat of a comparison between the two chat platforms.

Why should you choose Campfire?

I used Campfire while working for TechSmith on the Camtasia Relay team. Our team had a very colorful chat room that was often filled with animated GIFs and funny pictures. We made great use of the embedding features of Campfire, such as YouTube links, emojis, and sounds.

Campfire worked well for our team. It provided a single source of logs, as well generally not requiring any extra IT resources. Once in a blue moon the Campfire servers would go down, but it was never anything terrible.

Some of the employees wrote bots as well as browser extensions for Campfire. These added some nice customizations to the chat rooms of the various teams.

At one point we migrated Campfire accounts and lost all of the logs prior to the move. It was sad that 37signals didn’t offer a way to transition logs to the new account.

Why should you choose IRC?

I use IRC at Mozilla to chat with my teammates on the Firefox team (feel free to join us in #fx-team on IRC has been around forever, and there exist many mature bots.

By default, the IRC server doesn’t appear to do logging, whereas many IRC clients offer logging capabilities. I haven’t seen the IRC server go down here yet, but I haven’t been here that long either.

On the #fx-team channel, there is a bot called firebot that can pull up bug reports as well as provide details as to when users were last seen.

There is a very strong community and culture that has formed around IRC. IRC probably requires more technical work to setup and maintain when compared to Campfire, but the organization running the server is in control of the whole system.

What do I recommend?

Campfire requires authenticated access, and by default IRC does not. Campfire also costs money whereas IRC is free. As a chat platform for your software team, I would recommend using IRC. I have more confidence in the 3rd-party IRC bot/customization community than in a propreitary 37signals one.

Campfire is easier to learn for new users, but doesn’t provide as much depth as IRC. For a technical staff, I wouldn’t be worried about the technical hurdles of IRC.

  • The get-up-and-go option: Campfire
  • The stick-with-it option: IRC

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