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You are here: Home FSF News FSF and GNU move official IRC channels to Libera.Chat network

FSF and GNU move official IRC channels to Libera.Chat network

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Jun 11, 2021 03:37 PM

On May 27th, we held a community meeting to discuss the future of the FSF and GNU Project's official presence on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Although this meeting was called as a response to recent changes in the Freenode IRC network's governance structure, it also gave us the opportunity to assess the viability of chat protocols that had not been developed at the time of the FSF and GNU's 2002 announcement to choose Freenode as our official IRC network.

As a result of this meeting and our review, the FSF and GNU have decided to relocate our IRC channels to Libera.Chat. Effective immediately, Libera is the official home of our channels, which include but are not limited to all those in the #fsf, #gnu, and #libreplanet namespaces.

On June 25th, at 10:00 AM EDT (UTC 14:00), we plan to forward any channels remaining in the #fsf, #gnu, and #libreplanet namespaces on the Freenode network to their corresponding ##fsf, ##gnu, and ##libreplanet counterparts. As per Freenode policy, channels with the ## prefix are unofficial "topical" channels, and accordingly, they will not be moderated by GNU or FSF staff.

Please note that the irc.gnu.org address, which has historically pointed to the Freenode network, will be disabled on June 25th, to give any users still connecting with this address sufficient notice.

It is important to emphasize that this decision is not binding on GNU package maintainers. However, we invite GNU maintainers to join us and many other free software projects by migrating to the Libera network. Maintainers are encouraged to email maintainers@gnu.org with their questions or concerns.

Rationale

Our decision-making process was twofold, and involved weighing the community feedback we received against a set of criteria our working group developed to gauge a chat network's acceptability to software freedom activists. This working group was drawn from both FSF and GNU, with Greg Farough of the FSF staff joining Amin Bandali and Jason Self, two long-time GNU webmasters and volunteers appointed by Chief GNUisance Richard Stallman, to investigate the issue.

We made our decision based on the following criteria:

  • Is it possible to connect to the network using exclusively free software? Is it easy to do so?
  • How does the network staff approach their duties? Do they apply their policies consistently and reliably?
  • Is the wider community able to provide meaningful input on the network's governance and decision-making?
  • Are a large number of free software projects and communities on the network?
  • What steps does the network take to preserve user anonymity?

Being software freedom activists, the first of these points was by far the most crucial, and had the most involvement in our selecting IRC over an alternate protocol. Having made this decision, and once we had weighed the community feedback we received along our criteria and personal experiences as Freenode channel operators, our choice of Libera.Chat became clear.

Despite its age, IRC remains a strong favorite of the free software community. Although we are optimistic about the Matrix protocol and remain committed to following its development closely, we were not able to justify a full relocation of the FSF and GNU's official channels to a Matrix server. Doing so would create the unacceptable situation of encouraging a large number of users to run nonfree software in the form of nonfree JavaScript, which is used by the flagship Matrix.org server to authenticate users.

At the same time, we could not commit to moving fully over to XMPP, which would impose certain technical limitations on both users and FSF staff, and which does not offer many compelling advantages over IRC. We've also definitely heard from many of our members showing renewed interest in the XMPP server the FSF provides as an associate membership benefit, and we are looking at the possibility of devoting more resources to it. To reiterate, though IRC remains a key venue for communication in and around GNU and FSF, we are keeping an open mind and eye towards other existing or new communication protocols and software, including Matrix and XMPP, that enable users to communicate in freedom.

As we have had nearly twenty years of positive experiences with the Freenode staff, most of whom now comprise the staff of the Libera network, we are confident in their technical and interpersonal expertise, as well as their ability to make the network as long-lasting and integral to the free software community as they made Freenode. We look forward to joining the large number of free software and free culture projects who have already made Libera.Chat their home, and hope to stay there for many years to come.

The FSF and GNU deeply appreciate Freenode's current operators for their participation in the community meeting, and their patience while we make our transition. We wish them the best of luck in their endeavors to support free software.

Whether or not you're already an active user of IRC, we hope that you'll take the time to join us in the #fsf and #gnu channels on Libera.Chat, including for the weekly Free Software Directory meetings. We're looking forward to seeing both our channel regulars and fresh faces alike at our new home.

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