08.04.21

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Destroying Freenode Was Not the Objective, But That’s Just What Happened

Posted in Site News at 10:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Killing Freenode: Alright Gentlemen We Need A New Idea to destroy communities: Ruin their IRC network; Ban anonymous access, require registration
Just because enemies of Free software stand to benefit from it doesn’t mean they did it

Summary: Killing Freenode was certainly not what Andrew Lee wanted, but Lee will be remembered as the person whose takeover basically led to the end of Freenode; it’s in disarray

THIS Web site joined Freenode in earlier months of 2008. I still remember that day. Keith and I needed to set up ChanServ and a bunch of other things; many Free software groups were already on Freenode, so it was like a natural choice. I initially used XChat, but in later years I’d experiment and use a variety of other IRC clients. Freenode was like a default choice in some of them. Back then, one could say “Freenode is FOSS” and almost suggest that “Freenode is IRC”.

“The way things are going, our plan of having two networks in tandem has been undermined by the SSO requirement.”But sadly that’s no longer the case. Many communities got scattered to several other networks and some left IRC altogether. The new maladministration of Freenode has managed to harm IRC as a whole, not just Freenode.

Last week (apparently around Wednesday) Freenode decided to put an end to anonymous access, which means it’s unfit for purpose; they also reject registration with ‘throwaway’ E-mail accounts, so basically it’s like a phishing expedition exploiting the old reputation of Freenode to make a catalogue of people. And considering the top-level ownership of current Freenode (notorious Kape and some ‘casino’ entity on top of it) it would be reckless to supply them with any such data. We cannot recommend that people follow through and feed their SSO. We cannot advise EPO whistleblowers to use today’s Freenode under any circumstances. We heard from a PIA client (Ryan from our IRC channel) that even PIA now routes traffic through some dodgy entity, possibly a honeypot, at least for American clients.

KapeThankfully, by now we’ve come to the point where over 95% of communications happen in our self-hosted network and not any other network (there is a #techrights channel in several other networks but hardly any activity).

The way things are going, our plan of having two networks in tandem has been undermined by the SSO requirement. There’s no parity among the networks, albeit a bridge remains in place.

We’re not sure what to advise people who still use our channel (#techrights) at Freenode; but we certainly don’t advise giving them any personal information at this stage.

This rapid destruction of Freenode has certainly benefited several companies which loathe Free software communities, but we dare not conclude this was planned or intended. It’s just very unfortunate and we need to find ways to move on. Self-hosting has once again proven its advantage; people should be in control of their communities and projects rather than outsource to companies like Microsoft (GitHub), which will inevitably do something similar to what Freenode did in 2021. Those are ticking time bombs because they don’t truly care about communities. They’re just “numbers” or some “commodities” to them.

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