Freenode is dead, long live Freenode!

Published: Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Last modified: Thursday, Jul 8, 2021 (869bcd9)

Note: this is my OWN opinion and not representative of any community entity. This is a summary of what I’ve experienced since the Freenode takeover.

(The new Freenode is Libera.chat.)

§Drama?

I prefer to not take sides in online drama, but I feel like I have to err on the side of not-nuking-and-paving IRC channels that have existed for decades.

Here’s the summary of what’s happened, from my perspective: Guy with a bunch of money takes over a community operated network. There was much controversy. I thought it wasn’t a big deal because these things happen, but now we are at an impasse. The Freenode staff is operating a bot that searches for channels with a topic that mentions the libera IRC network, then forcefully moves the offending top-level channels (that is with a single #) to unofficial channels (that is, with a ## prefix). This has the unfortunate effect of erasing the community each of those channels has built up.

Most of the popular channels that still exist are increasingly inactive, with #bash, #git, #python all hardly active these days (a couple messages an hour).

I’ve heard of a serious moderation mess in the Freenode support channels, with moderation being temporarily suspended because nobody wanted to censor the negative feedback towards Andrew’s new directions, but I try to stay far away from that, that’s not my fight.

§What channels have been erased?

Disclaimer: I am assuming these are the actions of the present Freenode staff, and not a “rogue faction” caused by Andrew’s reckless takeover and splintering of the community. I think this is a reasonable assumption, but it is a pretty strong assumption nonetheless.

Any channel with mention of Libera.chat in its topic (e.g. “Hey everyone, we are transitioning to libera.chat!") is automatically taken over by the Freenode staff. The channel is then redirected to a newly created unofficial (## prefix) channel with the same name. This has the unfortunate effect of erasing the good will Freenode has built up over the decades with open source communities and developers. It also disrupts the community in each of these channels, in that bots, users who do not autojoin have to be manually reconfigured to move over to the replacement channel. Being kicked and banned automatically for participating is kind of lame, to say the least. Almost all the channels that were taken over this way have virtually zero presence in their unofficial replacement channel counterparts.

Here is a short list of channels purged this way:

§Voluntary Purge

Some other channels have decided to make the decision on the behalf of their users, to give an official message to their users where they have moved to. This has the advantage of users will know where to find the new community channels, unlike the above victims:

§Still exist, but are transitioning

§Some social media coverage

§Closing remarks

I was okay with a little controversy, however, actively destroying channels that were mitigating the fear and uncertainly caused by the hostile takeover earlier this month does not send a good message. I’m sure everyone has a side in this discussion, but it’s hard to accept that Freenode in any capacity would dream of destroying channels like #curl, #haskell, #emacs, #weechat, #irssi, #archlinux. Andrew and friends are insane if they think anyone is going to put up with this misconduct.

Given that even the existent channels are all pretty quiet, I think it’s safe to say Freenode is dead, except for niche communities that have managed to survive this unfortunate turn of events.

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