User and Project Cloaks

There are two types of cloak which can be set on accounts on freenode; both replace the hostname/IP displayed when you are connected (but only when you're identified to NickServ—see below).

There are also gateway cloaks, which are automatically applied if you're connecting from certain providers, gateways or web IRC clients, whether or not you are identified to NickServ, and which override unaffiliated cloaks.

Project cloaks

Project cloaks typically take the form project/role/user, for instance freenode/staff/bigpresh (though some take other forms). They are designed to demonstrate that the user is connected to a project in some way. Different projects use cloaks for various roles—some only use them for their core team, some will assign user cloaks as well.

Project cloaks can only be requested by a registered group contact of an already registered group—they should contact a member of freenode staff to request that a user be given a project cloak.

Unaffiliated cloaks

Unaffiliated cloaks for users take the form unaffiliated/accountname. They indicate that you are not affiliated with any specific project on freenode. They can also help obscure your IP from casual observers to a certain degree—but see the weaknesses section below.

Bots can also be cloaked to indicate their owner—unaffiliated bot cloaks take the form unaffiliated/owneraccountname/bot/botaccountname.

Gateway cloaks

If you are connected via a gateway which sets a gateway cloak (for instance, some web-based chat interfaces or bouncer/shell providers) you will receive an automatic gateway cloak—for instance gateway/web/foo/ip. — these gateway cloaks override unaffiliated cloaks, but do not override project cloaks.

There are also gateway cloaks which may denote that the host the user is coming from is recognised as a large-scale NAT gateway (where the public IP is being shared by many individual customers behind it) or conferences, where many users are at one location temporarily.

Cloaks do not effectively hide your IP

Cloaks can help obscure your IP address/hostname from casual observers, but should not be relied upon for that purpose, as they are not reliable:

For these reasons, we advise you to consider cloaks as only very basic protection from casual observers, and a way to stop your IP/hostname being passively logged in most cases, but caution that they cannot be relied upon to hide your IP/hostname robustly—if you want that, you should consider an IRC bouncer, VPN or our Tor hidden service).

Do consider, however, just how much you need to hide your IP address; it's disclosed routinely during normal Internet usage—for instance, every website you visit will necessarily see your IP address, unless you are using a VPN or Tor. Many, many users happily use IRC for decades, never hiding their IP address, and do not have any problems.

To reiterate, the primary purpose of cloaks is to show your project affiliation, or lack thereof. Hiding your IP is not their primary purpose, and they cannot be fully relied upon to do that.

Also, even when you are cloaked, you will see your own IP if you /whois yourself.

Requesting a cloak

Once you've read and understood the above, if you would like an unaffiliated cloak, please join the #freenode channel or speak to a member of the staff team. Note that cloaks are a privilege, and staff have the right to deny that privilege to users if they deem necessary.

For project cloaks, a registered GC for the project needs to contact staff to request the cloak be added to the desired user.