pre-away Extension

Copyright © 2023 Shivaram Lingamneni <>

Unlimited redistribution and modification of this document is allowed provided that the above copyright notice and this permission notice remains intact.

This specification is a work-in-progress and may have major incompatible changes without warning.

This specification may change at any time and we do not recommend implementing it in a production environment.

Notes for implementing work-in-progress version 🔗

This is a work-in-progress specification.

Software implementing this work-in-progress specification MUST NOT use the unprefixed pre-away CAP name. Instead, implementations SHOULD use the draft/pre-away CAP name to be interoperable with other software implementing a compatible work-in-progress version. The final version of the specification will use an unprefixed CAP name.

Introduction 🔗

Some IRC server implementations offer a mode of operation where a single nickname can be associated with multiple concurrent client connections, or no client connections. Typically, such implementations are bouncers (i.e., intermediaries between the client and another server), but some are full server implementations.

Such implementations may wish to update publicly visible state depending on the status of the user’s actual client connections. For example, if the user has no active connections, it may be desirable to mark them as AWAY, then mark them un-AWAY if they reconnect. However, a client implementation may wish to connect without active involvement from the user, e.g. to retrieve chathistory, in which case it would be undesirable to suggest that the user is present. This extension provides a mechanism for such clients to flag their connections as automatically initiated, so servers can disregard them for this or other purposes related to user presence.

Implementation 🔗

This specification introduces a new capability, draft/pre-away. Clients wishing to make use of this specification MUST negotiate the capability; this gives the server more information about the context and meaning of the client’s AWAY commands.

If the capability has been negotiated, servers MUST accept the AWAY command before connection registration has completed. The AWAY command has its normal semantics, except that servers SHOULD treat the form:


i.e. an AWAY message consisting of the single character *, as indicating that the user is not present for an unspecified reason. Clients MAY also send AWAY * post-registration to indicate that the user is no longer present for an unspecified reason.

In its conventional form:

AWAY :Gone to lunch.  Back in 5

the AWAY command MAY be used pre-registration to set a human-readable away message associated with the connection as usual. Similarly, AWAY with no parameters indicates that the user is present.

If the client’s nickname was not already present on the server, then AWAY pre-registration sets the away message but does not inhibit reporting of the change in nickname status, e.g. via monitor.

Clients that have negotiated this capability and subsequently receive * as an away message (for example, in 301 RPL_AWAY or [away-notify][away-notify]) SHOULD treat it as indicating that the user is not present for an unspecified reason. Servers MAY substitute a human-readable message for the * if it would otherwise be relayed as an away message.

Implementation considerations 🔗

This section is non-normative.

In general, the server-side aggregation of away statuses across multiple connections is outside the scope of this specification. However, in most cases, an away message of * should be treated as though the connection did not exist at all (for example, it should not supersede a human-readable AWAY message set by another connection, even if it is more recent).