So Long Freenode
This week, numerous open source communities had a tough time sorting out the chaos revolving around with Freenode and other IRC networks. With multiple events of “hostile takeover”, many Channel operators are forced to analyze both sides of the coin, and decide on an unbiased solution for all users associated with your project.
IRC has been an age-old communication platform. But its simplicity keeps tech-savvy users attracted to this platform. IRC has always been a nostalgy for me. My first ever interaction with the open source community was through IRC. I still love the Quassel Desktop IRC client, with my favorite monospace font. It is an experience which cannot be expressed through words. IRC has always provided a beautiful text-only interface, trying to keep things very minimal and compatible. However, a few events happening in the past week has not been pleasing to anyone who loved its ideal.
Why IRC after all?⌗
This question has been worrying me for a while. With the advent of newer communication platforms like Matrix and XMPP, this is an inevitable topic for a debate, if a complete move to one of these platforms would be justified. Personally, I have been joining IRC rooms over a Freenode-Matrix bridge bot, just because of the convenience that the new Matrix clients provides, and to keep all the conversations in a single app. To be honest, the bridging procedure to manage rooms was not very perfect, and was many times annoying, but it was one of the best tools to get the work done. I am not a big fan of IRC, but I adore its simplicity. To remain connected to an IRC network, it normally required stuff like IRC Bouncer to receive messages even when we are away, and much more, but this was not always the cup of tea for normal end-users. Having to explain the principle of IRC over and over again to every user who tries to speak in a channel turned out to be a pain over time. This forced me to investigate other open source communication platforms in the late 2019.
The move to Matrix⌗
Matrix was promising to me. For private chat, end to end encryption, simple user interface, support for media, reactions, bots and code blocks, gained traction from many users on the IRC side. Many users were hesitant for a change in the beginning. Eventually, those users ended up liking the new communication platform for the better. However, for those users who never left the IRC channel, I decided to set up a matrix-appservice-irc bridge, which worked pretty much satisfactorily for a while.
xkcd, Team Chat #1782
On May 14, a resignation letter made it to the Hacker News Frontpage, which was the beginning of all chaos. By May 21, the resignation letter was made official, and so did the campaigning about the new IRC network, led by the former staff of Freenode, Libera.chat.
Most organizations decided to stay calm, and wait to see the outcome of the chaos: to make a decision about their communication platform. Soon, by the end of third week of May, most IRC channels moved to:
On 22nd May, Freenode quickly started taking over other channels. This was then made officially a “policy violation” via this commit. Soon after this incident, it was decided that, the migration to a new network is the need of the hour.
To provide more insight, and, to see what actually happened behind the scenes, this blog post is an interesting read.
Following the decision of other organizations regarding their choice of IRC network, Sugar Labs decided to move to Libera Chat, the network set up by the former freenode staff, with an IRC-matrix bridge.
The following channels have moved in this regard:
With successful collaboration with developers at matrix.org, a fresh IRC-matrix relay bridge was quickly set-up. By 27th May, a week after the Freenode incident, a team of one, a matrix contributor, quickly spun up a new matrix-irc bridge exclusively for Libera. Thanks to their work, day and night, the communication systems are, once again, getting back to normal.
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