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Things That Might Go Wrong

Ping Times And The Dark Lord of Lag

Because of the nature of IP (the protocol used on the Internet to get information from one machine to another), real-time chat systems such as IRC have a hard time maintaining their real-time aspect. A message may take over six minutes to reach a destination. When someone complains of "lag", it means that their messages aren't reaching all the users on a channel in a reasonable amount of time. Most people think over about 15 seconds is "lagged". One way to temporarily help lag is to disconnect from your current server and reconnect to another one (for those who understand IP, this forces a certain route to the other servers which may prevent you from routing through a slow router).

One way of measuring lag is a "ping". Much like sonar in submarines, a PING asks the person being pinged to return a message saying that they received the ping. When the response is received, the total time between send and response is displayed to the user, this is the "ping time." It is important to note and often not understood by new users that person A's ping time to person B is the exact same number as person B's ping time to person A. There is really no need to ask someone else to ping you since your pinging them will get you the same number.


Sometimes servers become lagged between themselves. When a server detects that it is lagged or that it is causing lag for other servers that are connected to it, it will break its connections and try to connect to another server. When doing this results in one group of servers being completely disconnected from another group, people on either group will see the people on the other group all simultaneously signing off, and then eventually signing back on. This is called "Netsplit" since the IRC network is splitting into two pieces.

Server Desynch

If a server is very lagged to another server, a user on the lagged server may be able to kick people and ban them on their server and think that all is well, but in reality every other server hasn't received the message to kick the user and that user may continue to cause problems on all other servers. When this happens, we say the servers are "desynchronized" or "desynched" for short.

This is an oversimplification of desynch. If you're really interested in what desynch is, there are other documents which better explain, and in greater detail, what is actually going on.

Neale Pickett <zephyr@nmt.edu>
March 2, 1997

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