It can be installed and operated on a user's personal computer, a local server, or accessed on public gateway servers. A user registers with the BitlBee server for future credentials storage. Service protocols are added along with their credentials; following this, the software will display the user's buddy list as normal IRC users in a channel. Conversations can be public, or use the private message facility of IRC.
The software has been reviewed positively. Vladi Belperchinov-Shabanski wrote that the software made his "dream come true", of only needing a single chat client open on his desktop, to access multiple IM protocols.