|Geographic location||Asia, Pacific Rim, Europe, United States|
|Content/subject||Public / unrestricted|
Freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is an IRC network used to discuss peer-directed projects. Their servers are all accessible from the host names chat.freenode.net and irc.freenode.net, which load balances connections by using the actual servers in rotation. In 2010, it became the largest free and open source software-focused IRC network and, as of 2013, the largest IRC network, regardless of focus, encompassing more than 90,000 users and 40,000 channels, gaining almost 5,000 new users per year.
Freenode is centrally managed. Staffers or staff (as IRC operators are called) have the same access across all servers. A list of active staff can be viewed using the
/stats p command. Some operations that would normally only apply to one server (like k-lines) are propagated across the whole network. Servers are "donated" to the network, rather than "linked."
The network focuses on supporting peer-directed and open-source projects. Primary on-topic channels begin with a single #, and groups wanting to use such a channel must officially register with Freenode. "About" channels, which may not be about a peer-directed or open-source project, begin with two ##, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis without needing a group registration.
Freenode currently runs Atheme IRC Services and IRCd-Seven, a set of Freenode-specific patches on the Charybdis IRCd (based on Ratbox). In 1999, Freenode ran an IRCd called Dancer (based on IRC-Hybrid) then switched to Hyperion in 2005. Hyperion was then replaced with IRCd-Seven on 30 January 2010.
History and security breaches
Freenode began as a 4-person Linux support channel called #LinPeople on EFnet, another IRC network. By 1995 after moving to Undernet and then DALnet it moved from being just a channel to its own network, irc.linpeople.org. In early 1998 it changed to Open Projects Net (OPN) with about 200 users and under 20 channels. The OPN soon grew to become the largest network for the free software community, and 20th largest in the world. In 2002, the name changed to Freenode and the Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) was founded. PDPC was a registered IRS 501(c)(3) charity from 2002 until approximately 2010, during which it received support from such organizations as the Linux Fund in 2007.
On 24 June 2006, a user with the nickname "ratbert" gained administrative privileges of Freenode administrator Rob Levin (lilo) and took control of the network. It is likely that approximately 25 user passwords were stolen as a result. This user proceeded to K-line many Freenode staff members, and most Freenode servers subsequently went down for several hours.
On 2 February 2014 Freenode suffered a DDoS attack (confirmed by @freenodestaff on Twitter) which caused a partial outage.
On 22 February 2014 Freenode suffered another DDoS attack which caused partial outage followed by several botnets which attempted to attack #freenode but were redirected to #freenode-unreg. After the attacks several servers remained nullrouted by their providers and for a short time period only a single server in rotation was accepting connections.
On 13 September 2014 a DDoS attack occurred which caused the network to split for several hours followed by several botnet attacks in the #freenode channel and against Freenode's services. Freenode's infrastructure team noticed a vulnerability on one of their IRC servers. So far the team has only managed to identify indication of the server being compromised by an unknown third party. Freenode recommended that all users change their NickServ password for safety reasons, and has temporarily taken the compromised server offline until the vulnerability is fixed. A deep technical analysis of the rootkit used in the attack was released on 14 October 2014.
On 17 August 2017 Freenode suffered from a "fairly extensive spambot attack ... containing child pornography images." In the midst of combating the attack, the operators accidentally set a K-Line banning most users of the network. The spambot attack continued in the following year, involved even more networks and was called "Freenodegate", seeing the creation of sites against the administrators of Freenode with accusations to favor pedophilia and their reaction through editing the server configuration (IRC usermodes), to stem the spread of those messages and reassure users.
Peer-Directed Projects Center
The Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) is known as the organization which ran the Freenode IRC network, where many prominent open source projects host their official IRC channels. The PDPC was incorporated in England and Wales.
PDPC was created to run the Freenode network and to establish a variety of programs relating to peer-directed project communities. According to its charter, the PDPC exists "to help peer-directed project communities flourish", mostly based around free and open source software projects, and encouraging the use of free software through supporting its development. The GNU Project uses the Freenode network for communication.
The PDPC was founded and initially directed by Rob Levin. In November 2006, the board went through a reshuffle and new members were installed. Seth Schoen left and Christel Dahlskjaer, senior Freenode staffer became the secretary and head of staff on Freenode in Schoen's place. Also joining the board was David Levin, Rob's brother.
In March 2013, the PDPC was dissolved. The decision to dissolve was made in part due to the donation levels and costs associated with maintaining its status as a charitable organization in the UK.
Robert Levin (16 December 1955 – 16 September 2006), also known as lilo, was the founder of the Freenode IRC network and Executive Director of the PDPC charity that helped fund Freenode. A computer programmer since 1968, Levin worked as an administrator and an applications programmer from 1978 until his death.
On 12 September 2006, Levin was struck by a car while riding a bicycle at night in Houston, Texas, in a hit-and-run collision. After the collision, it was reported that Levin was hospitalized for several days. He died on 16 September.
From 1994 onwards, Levin worked to encourage the use of IRC for Free Software and Open Source projects. Levin was one of the founders of the OpenProjects Network (OPN), which quickly grew to become the largest IRC network used by the free software community. The OpenProjects domains were later put up for sale, but did not sell.
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