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IRC is a well-known protocol designed to serve communication and messaging purposes between users. It is built using a client-server architecture, where many “networks” exist to provide the hosting servers, so that users can join “channels” about specific topics and textually message each other.
Freenode is one of the most famous IRC networks, and as of 2016, it was reported to have more than 90K active users, making it the largest IRC network in the world.
Various open source projects and Linux distributions used to provide support channels and other channels on Freenode using the IRC protocol for users. It was a quick-and-handy method to provide an easy textual communication with users whenever they need help or anything else.
However, Freenode today is collapsing, as major open source projects abandon it to other alternatives.
in 2017, it was reported that Freenode was sold to the Korean crown prince called “Andrew Lee”. Historically, Freenode was mainly ran and managed by volunteer staff, but the organizational body was managed by Christel Dahlskjaer (or at very least; conferences and domain name of the project), who solely transferred ownership of Freenode Limited to Lee.
Situation continued to be somehow stable for the next 4 years, as Lee confirmed to the community that he is not making any changes on the leadership of the project or its principles, or any of the daily operations.
Former Freenode volunteers say that this selling process is illegal, but due to insufficient resources and legal holes in laws, they couldn’t stop the selling process legally.
However, few weeks, Shells logo, a company Lee co-founded, appeared on the homepage of Freenode. Also, some hierarchical changes in the way Freenode is managed by the volunteers were rejected and the blog-post about them was removed from the official website of the project. It was apparent that volunteer staff lost the control of the network.
This made most of the staff volunteers angry, and resigned instantly in various open letters to the community (1, 2, 3, 4). Large channels such as those of cURL, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo… etc migrated to other networks, such as LiberaChat, and stopped using and recommending Freenode for their users.
The new owners of Freenode escalated the matters today as they are removing channels and their ownership whenever they mention the heated debate or try to migrate to other platforms:
700 channels at least were reportedly taken over by Lee and his leadership, and their original owners no longer have access to them.
Most of the Freenode volunteer staff now resigned, and they are migrating to other networks and platforms.
Since this migration is accompanied by major open source projects as well, then it probably means the end of Freenode; It may exist for a while in the next few months or years, but it will be an empty and shallow place which no one wants to join because of the mismanagement of its new owners.
Thoughts and prayers are currently with the old volunteers; who wasted thousands of hours for free to provide user support and infrastructure services, and were later on stabbed in the back by both the person who sold, and the person who bought.
Users are encouraged to participate in LiberaChat and other alternatives.