Long live Freenode!

Authored by Panos Vasilopoulos, 22 May 2021

All kingdoms must fall someday. Even the virtual ones.

Freenode is an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network that has existed before I was even born. A week ago, it was the most popular IRC network. It hosted a very large variety of different communities and discussion rooms, especially for open-source projects. It was founded in 1994, which was more than 25 years ago.

Many communities on that network have also existed for a considerably long amount of time. The primary factors that establish prestige and trust in IRC networks are the communities, the amount of people that use the network, the moderation and the trustworthiness in its infrastructure. The person who controls the infrastructure is also in control of the user data. In the case of Freenode, moderation was directed by volunteer staff members with a high degree of reputation that has been established over the years.

Wait, what about me? #

I have left all discussion rooms hosted by Freenode and I'm planning to delete my account at some point soon.

Please do not contact me on Freenode and do not trust anyone using my aliases, AlwaysLivid and AlwaysLivid[m], as well as other aliases that I go or have gone by.

I can be reached out over OFTC or Libera.

My perspective, what happened and the Haiku operating system #

I got particularly worried when I saw a resignation letter of one volunteer staff member that initially got leaked as a draft. Thus, I forwarded the letter to an individual in the Haiku development team, which is a project I regularly contribute to that was also present on Freenode for the past two decades. We both agreed that it would be best to wait it out until this gets resolved, before taking any course of action.

Needless to say, after a few days, that letter was no longer a draft. The network had been essentially forcefully taken over by Andrew Lee, a tech entrepreneur who's now a Korean Prince. His favorite quote of mine has to be "People think it’s cool that I’m royalty [now]. But I don’t go around saying ‘Hey, I’m a prince’, I stay pretty low key." from an article solely talking about the fact that it was established that he's a Korean Prince.

To make things substantially worse, the vast majority of the staff members, who had spent years of their lives making the network what it was, also resigned. The control of the servers was handed over to Andrew. The trust in the network had been completely lost. The entire situation was so outlandish, to the point where an article was published with the title "Developers Flee Open Source Project After ‘Takeover’ By Korean Crown Prince". Whoever was responsible for that title definitely deserves a raise. Andrew probably knew that people would stop trusting Freenode if everyone associated with it left, so he or his new administration (ChanServ) kept giving operator status to the moderators that resigned in the #freenode chat, which they kept removing from themselves:

#freenode on

ChanServ gives channel operator status to jess
jess removes channel operator status from jess

We had to decide hastily whether we'd move to OFTC, which provided discussion rooms for many popular open-source projects and has been around since 2001, or Libera, which is the reincarnation of Freenode hosted by the very same staff members that resigned.

We opted for OFTC, because it has been around for a much longer period of time, since 2 decades is much longer than 2 days, and we saw the network as inherently more trustworthy and reliable. The niche community revolving strictly around FLOSS (Free and Libre Open-Source Software) development made it seem right. Other operating systems, such as Debian, were on OFTC, as well as countless of other projects that Haiku regularly made use of. The only major drawbacks would have been that we would lose access to some of Freenode's set of advanced features and that we'd have to interact with a different set of staff members we were unfamiliar with. They were very helpful, as it turns out. Both of these projects are backed by non-profit organizations.

We switched networks in under 6 hours. We changed all references of the old Freenode channel on the website, changed the default configuration of Vision, a native IRC client for the Haiku operating system, and we reconfigured all of the bots so that they would connect to the new channel instead. I even authored a press release. It was a big deal. On top of it all, a member of the community registered the #haiku chatroom 9 years ago, and we had to contact a staff member to get it unclaimed. They were under a heavy load of work, because we definitely weren't the only ones moving our project to their network. Our channel's chat logs were publicly logged for posterity earlier by a bot. The said bot wasn't available on OFTC and there weren't any plans to make it available, so we moved to a service generously provided by Whitequark. We pretty much treated this as a crisis, in retrospect, I think we turned out to be right. There was a lot of work to be done in a very short period of time, so that was particularly stressful and distracting.

There are currently a lot of people actively taking advantage of the chaos and spamming channels, including Haiku's, and even running smear campaigns against people who are moving to a different network.

#haiku-3rdparty on

[05:13:49] <[redacted]> /!\   THIS  CHANNEL  HAS  MOVED  TO  IRC.LIBERA.CHAT  #LIBERIA  /!\
[05:13:52] <[redacted]> /!\   THE  [RELIGIOUS MINORITY]  HAVE  TAKEN  OVER  FREENODE,  
[05:13:55] <[redacted]> /!\   JOIN  #LIBERIA  TODAY.  THIS  CHANNEL  HAS  MOVED  TO  

On one eccasion, I even sent logs to a person whose name was being used as the person responsible for the spam. He told me afterwards that the harassment by the person impersonating him had gotten so bad to the point where a criminal investigation had been opened against the harasser. It's all very chaotic. As Ariadne, a fellow user, very eloquently said:

Ariadne on

[18:34:39] <Ariadne> it's going to be a very long summer

At another point, roughly 2 hours ago as of the time of this writing, this happened as well in the #oftc room after some weirdo started mentioning everyone:

#oftc on

[18:44:43] <AlwaysLivid> I literally can't believe that I had to just debate someone about masks
deliberately and say all the things that get them ticked off so that they just stop tagging people,
I'll definitely tell that story to the parties I never get invited to.

If that story made you reconsider whether you should invite me to any of your parties anytime soon, please don't - I wasn't the one opposing the mask mandates during the debate. I ended up pulling off multiple ad hominem fallacies in bad faith, so that he'd be more focused in responding to me out-trolling him, a troll, until a moderator could take it on from here.

It should be noted that Freenode was the biggest IRC network, so the fact that a lot of its users and communities have already moved (or are planning to move) to multiple different networks has essentially fragmented this means of communication. So yeah, a communication method that has existed for decades has now been pretty much inevitably ruined. All of this probably won't magically fix itself over the next few months as a few very optimistic people seem to believe so. There's a whole lot more to this than what I described and linked over here, and it doesn't look that good.

I think I've suffered enough as an average text-typer on the internet, but I'm now a moderator in the #haiku chatroom, so that's interesting?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be antagonizing a cow robot in OFTC that responds to me everytime I moo:

#moocows on

[22:09:12] <AlwaysLivid> Moo! Moo! Moo! mooooooooooooooo
[22:09:13] <CowBot> Moo.
[22:09:14] <AlwaysLivid> moo.
[22:09:14] * CowBot lazily looks toward [redacted]
[22:09:26] <AlwaysLivid> MooooooooO!
[22:09:27] * CowBot solves partial differential equations
[22:09:32] <AlwaysLivid> Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
[22:09:32] <CowBot> Moooooooooooooooo!!

Also read: #

I'm also linking this because some people made haikus out of the Haiku project moving its discussion rooms out of Freenode in the comments section:

*EDIT (23-05-2021): Fixed typos and improved the language.

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