Free Software Projects Defenestrate The Freenode IRC Network

Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software on 19 May 2021 at 02:53 PM EDT. 45 Comments
Seemingly by the minute today there are more free software projects leaving the Freenode IRC network and moving to alternative IRC networks or other chat platforms.

The Freenode IRC network has been around for more than two decades and very popular with free/open-source software projects for engaging over development discussions, user support, and more. But now due to a "hostile takeover" and most/all of the volunteer staff leaving the network, projects are scrambling to move to alternative chat platforms.

Making waves today is word of most or all of the volunteer staff members leaving Freenode due to a "hostile takeover" whereby an individual has been seeking to assert control over this IRC network. Seeking to take control of the Freenode IRC network after acquiring Freenode Limited as their live conference organization is reported to be Andrew Lee, the founder of VPN service Private Internet Access (PIA).

It is worth noting that Private Internet Access / London Trust Media formerly owned the Linux Journal and has contributed/donated to various open-source projects. Andrew Lee is also involved in the current Linux "cloud desktop" startup, which has been embraced by a number of different Linux distributions. So the interest in Freenode isn't entirely a surprise especially given his history and long interest in IRC.

As for the staff departure, more details on the situation from the staff side can be found via this post by one of the former Freenode staff members.

Freenode Limited has also published a response, "Given the millions I have injected into freenode thus far, the fact I own it and the fact that I protected the freenode staff with professional legal work and funding when they needed help and they could still lie and slander like this... says a lot about who they are. It saddens me that christel was forced out, and I wish she'd feel safe returning. I'm frustrated that tomaw's hostile takeover seems likely to succeed, in spite of all. I simply want freenode to keep on being a great IRC network, and to support it financially and legally as I have for a long time now."

Due to this exodus of Freenode staff and privacy concerns arising with a sole individual looking to control this popular IRC network, free software projects have begun departing the network. Former Freenode staff have setup Libera.Chat as a new IRC network alternative carrying the same former ethos of Freenode. CentOS and Haiku are among the many projects announcing the move elsewhere while a number of projects continue discussing the possible move on their respective mailing lists (Qt, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc).

Some of the projects departing Freenode are moving to Libera.Chat while others are moving to OFTC and other platforms. Aside from this IRC network shakeup, a growing number of projects in recent years have also been moving to the likes of Matrix, Discourse, and other modern communication alternatives.
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