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IRC networks

Enter The Game
The title of this article begins with a capital letter due to technical restrictions. The correct title is freenode.

freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is an IRC network which is particularly popular with free and open source software users and programmers. It is the official network of many major free software projects, such as Debian GNU/Linux and the GNU project [1]. freenode reports over 23,500 simultaneous connections at weekly peak.

Users of the network are encouraged to contribute to the Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC). The contributed funds are used to continue the improvement of the network, as well as for the PDPC to take on a variety of charitable social support projects for the FOSS communities.

freenode uses IRC server software called hyperion-ircd, a fork of the formerly used software called dancer-ircd (there is also an IRC bot called "dancer," completely unrelated to freenode). Hyperion traces ancestry back to EFnet's ircd-hybrid-6.0 tree (as opposed to Undernet) codebase. It has NickServ and ChanServ bots provided to reserve nicknames and channels. The services program is theia (formerly dancer-services), and it is a modified version of hybserv, designed only to work with hyperion-ircd, due to changes in the server to server messages. freenode servers are usually named after science fiction or fantasy authors.


Rob Levin (lilo), the founder of the network, traces its inception back to January 29, 1994, when he started a small Linux support channel called #linuxneo on the EFnet IRC network. The channel wasn't active until August of that year, and soon after it became active it changed its name to #linpeople.

It then moved from Undernet to DALnet, and in late 1995 moved again to its own IRC server, In 1998, the server was renamed and generalized its mission, attracting a variety of free software projects. And in August, 2002, it became a network: freenode, a service of Peer-Directed Projects Center.

NOIDPREFIX controversy

A small controversy has emerged regarding one of the features being considered for future use on freenode, called NOIDPREFIX, of the hyperion ircd. When NOIDPREFIX is enabled, users who have not identified with NickServ have a tilde (~) prepended to their nickname.

The controversy arises from a secondary part of the NOIDPREFIX feature, called "base nicknames". A base nickname, which is the part that you register with freenode Registry (currently in early development), consists only of alphanumeric characters; any other character forms a user-defined suffix that is not considered when you identify. The result of this is that anybody whose nickname consists of two or more portions seperated by one or more non-alphanumerical characters (e.g. Foo_Bar) will be required to pick a new nickname if the leading alphanumeric portion ("Foo" in this case) is already taken.

This has at least two ramifications:

  • The available namespace of nicknames is greatly reduced.
  • "Status" nicknames (e.g. "fred-work", for somebody who is at work) are encouraged, since you can change from "fred" to "fred-work" and still be recognised as "fred" by Registry, although this could also apply to users who have multiple clients (one for home and one for work) which may coexist on the network.

The intended purposes include:

  • Growing the namespace a user is allowed for alternate clients or other purposes.
  • Increasing uniquity of a given nick, making "knockoff" nicks more difficult to obtain.

Levin has defended the feature as intended to bring new users to the network.

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