BitlBee is an IRC gateway that allows you to connect, via IRC, to outside IM networks such as Jabber, MSN, Yahoo! and AIM. There are public servers available but you can also install this IRC gateway system on your own machine or server. This will outline installation steps and steps on connecting to your outside IM network accounts.


If you want to run your own BitlBee server, which many users prefer for privacy/security, you need to install the BitlBee package and service.

sudo aptitude install bitlbee

If you prefer not to install your own private server see below for a list of public servers around the world.

As of the version 1.0.3-1.3ubuntu1, the Feisty Fawn version of the bitlbee package doesn't create the right file in /etc/xinetd.d/ in order to launch bitlBee. You'll have to add a "ircd" file by hand in that directory, containing:

service ircd
        socket_type     = stream
        protocol        = tcp
        wait            = no
        user            = bitlbee
        server          = /usr/sbin/bitlbee
        port            = 6667
        disable         = no
        bind            = localhost         # prevent non-local access by binding to the loopback device

And then restart xinetd :

sudo /etc/init.d/xinetd restart
  • note : if this command does not work for you double check that you have the xinetd package installed and try again.
  • note : the above is not needed on Ubuntu 6.06.1 or Ubuntu 7.10, just 7.04 apparently.

Connect To Bitlbee

After you've installed BitlBee gateway server you'll need to connect to it. This is done via the connect command within your IRC client. In this example I am using the irssi IRC client and so I use the command:

/connect server.address

If you're connecting to your local machine for this service you can use:

/connect localhost

If you prefer to use a public server you can find an official list of BitlBee servers here.

Setup Your Accounts

Once you've connected to your server (or a public server) you need to register your account and then create a list of the outside IM accounts you want to use or have access to. To register (whether on public or private server) use:

register [password]

After you've registered your account on your new server you simply add your accounts.

Jabber (gmail account based)

account add jabber password

Jabber (other server)

account add jabber password server.address:port:ssl(?)

Oscar (AIM/ICQ)

account add oscar 72696705 hobbelmeeuw
account add oscar MyScreenName MyPassword


account add yahoo handle password


account add msn handle password

Once you've created any / all accounts you want access to you'll need to activate the account to connect.

account on

Lastly, save these settings on your account


Next time you connect to your BitlBee server you can retrieve your settings, accounts, etc by identifying yourself to your account with the password you used above (see register).

identify [password]

Using BitlBee

Once your accounts are connected you can use the help command for more details usage. Some of the basic uses are listed below:

To refresh your buddy list:


To message a buddy:

/msg username message

or, for a single IM and not creating a dedicated new window:

user: message

If bitlbee is driving you crazy with all the status updates you can suppress those by ignoring that output:

/ignore &bitlbee MODES

If you'd like to make bitlbee strip off any html from those other clients, use:

set strip_html true

If you ever need to change the Bitlbee identification password, use:

set password {account #} {new password}

If you ever need to change one of the actual account passwords (MSN/ICQ/etc.) in Bitlbee use:

account {accountnumber} set password {newpassword}

In newer versions of Bitlbee this would be

account set {accountnumber}/password {newpassword}

Additional Links

For additional information on BitlBee please see:

CategoryInternet CategoryNetworking

Bitlbee (last edited 2011-05-09 16:59:26 by pilpi)