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freenode decentralization

History

freenode, formerly known as the Open Projects Network, is an IRC network which began in 1998 and is the home of FOSS. Many projects trace their roots back to freenode, including Bitcoin. Many of the biggest, most widely used projects that are used by people all over the globe have or continue to call freenode home.

freenode was originally owned by Rob Levin, also known as “lilo” on the network. The network began to grow under his strong leadership, until he was met with an untimely death. At this point, “christel” inherited the network. While running freenode, christel helped grow the network to what it is today. For over the past decade, freenode was sponsored by companies that I, Andrew Lee, owned. christel felt that I was an excellent fit for a custodian of freenode, and later passed the ownership to me. Since 2017, I’ve been the custodian and sole owner of freenode. Under my ownership, with the continued help of christel, freenode grew larger as it began hosting live events in the United Kingdom for the free and open source software community.

However, in 2021, internal issues led to the resignation of christel, and the former chief of staff asked to take control of the domain name. Initially, this made sense, but a better approach was to take the unfortunate circumstance and instead decentralize freenode and give ownership to the people [1]. However, we were met, instead, with a takeover attempt in which some former staff members seized control of the core network assets and locked us out. Alarmed by this brazen act of hostility, several former and original freenode staffers, alongside staffers from all of the top IRC Networks ranging from EFnet, DALnet, Undernet, Rizon, and IRCnet, co-cooperated and were able to re-secure the network.

However, once freenode was secured, the network was met with smear, spam, and troll campaigns. In an attempt to protect the network, we locked down IRC channels that were explicitly reported by users as engaging in this nefarious activity. This defense proved to be too strong and ended up locking down more than just malicious channels. Upon this, in addition to the many rumors, a number of FOSS groups left freenode.

What many now call the great IRC war has since ended, but in the wake of the destruction remains two wholly separate IRC networks, with a combined user base a mere fraction of the original freenode, and a severely fractured free and open-source software community. One IRC Network, freenode, remains centrally controlled by me. The other, Libera Chat, remains centrally controlled by a group mainly consisting of former freenode staffers.

freenode belongs to the people

In the aftermath of the “war” and throughout the past few months, the freenode team has been engaging in discussion with the community at large to understand the users’ wants and needs. Countless users, in the thousands, have been vocal about the critical importance of freenode to them, as it is “a part of their life.”

Ownership of the commons

One major issue that we have found is disbelief that an IRC network could in fact, be owned by an individual or a group. The general consensus of the people is that an IRC network should be owned by all people.

Staff and Contributor Contributions

Another major issue that we have heard loud and clear is that most IRC networks management and staff operate as opaque, walled gardens. As a result, it is difficult to know the inner workings of the IRC network, which leads to distrust in the safety of communications, among other things, and the hindrance of progress as well-meaning contributors are blocked.

Policies not in line with the user base

Finally, the third, and yet, still frequent issue was that the policies enacted and governing the use of IRC networks sometimes do not fall in line with the overall user base.

Summary of issues

While all of the issues are very different, they are all in line with one common theme -- the IRC Network should belong to, and direction should be dictated by the people -- in this case, the IRC users.

Centralized IRC Networks

While a form of federation and democracy, for operational issues, exists within most IRC networks, the IRC networks themselves remain centrally owned and controlled. At the end of the day, someone must own the domain name and database. This results in an organization designed within the constraints of the existing communication system in which it was developed, a theoretical endpoint for many as once thought by Conway [2]. While some structures have seen success [3], in theory, there would be no legal repercussion to the owner of any network redirecting IRC traffic elsewhere and/or simply not linking to other servers run by others.

Solutions to Centralized IRC Networks

While there are a plethora of different theoretical approaches to solving the problem of centralization within the constraints of the IRC protocol, in this document, we’re going to focus on some of the methods we have seen deployed in the wild:

Former freenode network

The former freenode network was owned by an individual. The individual would select sub-committee leads, who would then choose team members. The structure leads to a loose form of nepotism as that is the rational path given trust and relationship would play an inherent role in this organizational design given the importance of the privacy and security of users. However, this gave rise to a reduction of the talent pool for development, among other things. Additionally, most significant complaints received within this model were the closed nature of the operating team and the closed nature of bans and channel founder modifications deployed [4]. Further, at any given point, the owner could simply redirect the domain name without repercussion.

The users, and channels, had no control over the network.

Libera Chat

Libera Chat deploys an ownership model consisting of former staff members from the freenode network. The ownership is spread evenly among the former freenode staff members, which removes a single person point of failure and improves on the former freenode organizational structure. Redirecting a domain name would have legal repercussions.

This model, however, lacks transparency and continues to operate in an opaque nature and, essentially, is subject to the same issues as the former freenode, with the improvement of being spread among many as opposed to spread among one.

The users, and channels, have no control over the network.

Rizon

Rizon deploys a model consisting of a small group of leads whom each have full authority over their respective divisions. Any major change to the network, including the addition of a server, must be voted on by all server admins. The ownership of the domain name for Rizon, is held separately by an independent third party that is not associated with the IRC Network anymore. Rizon is an open network, and new staff continually join through a democratic vote.

This model still suffers from the same issue as the former freenode model, wherein the domain owner can simply redirect traffic.

Additionally, the users, and channels, have no control over the network.

Introducing the freenode decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)

It is with humility and understanding that we have constructed the freenode decentralization plan with the users. In March of 2021, the Great State of Wyoming enacted into legislation the ability for algorithmically managed companies, or DAOs, to legally own and operate LLC entities. This gives the ability for freenode to transform its operations from privately owned property to one of which belongs to the commons, by proxy, through smart contracts.

freenode DAO Operations

A DAO-owned operation is unique in that the direction of the smart contract is uniquely delegated to smart contract code in the blockchain and thus immutable. There are many mechanisms by which the DAOs code can define the management. In the case of freenode, which belongs to the people, we chose to go with a voting system.

freenode

freenode consists of the freenode IRC network and freenode.net, freenode.org, and freenode.com. freenode also owns IRC.com, a project with over $2,000,000.00 of research and development, which is its own always-on IRC client in the cloud with apps for iOS and Android. Finally, freenode operates a link aggregator and message board on its main website.

freenode DAO Voting

In a non-DAO operation, the Board/Ownership elects or appoints a leader or teams within an organization. In the case of the freenode DAO, all token holders can stake tokens to participate in a vote to help the smart contract to determine these different roles. In addition, any and all structuring that will be laid down to operate the network will be decided by the smart contract, who will take a vote through token holders. Any token holder can also submit a proposal to the smart contract, to conduct a vote.

Initially, the network will operate in a form resembling a direct democracy. While we are uncertain of what is in store in the future, we imagine the direct democracy may eventually become cumbersome. We imagine different proposals for structures and roles will come to fruition.

freenode DAO Tokens and Allocations

The freenode DAO smart contract will create 100,000,000.00000000 tokens which are used to stake for voting. The allocation of these coins will be made available to the following:

Current freenode userbase

freenode is nothing without its userbase. The userbase should have a direct say in the direction and operation of the IRC Network. The allocation for the freenode userbase will be 25% of all tokens. Users who registered on or before December 16, 2021, will be eligible.

Current freenode channels

freenode is also nothing without its channels. The channels should also have a direct say in the direction and operation of the network. The allocation for the freenode channels will be 10% of all tokens. Channels who registered on or before December 16, 2021, will be eligible.

Libera userbase

The Libera userbase would be the freenode userbase if they dictated the direction of freenode. The allocation for the Libera userbase will be 25% of all tokens. Users registered on or before December 16, 2021, on Libera will be eligible.

Libera channels

The Libera channel base would be the freenode channel base if they dictated the direction of freenode. The allocation for the Libera channelbase will be 10% of all tokens. Channels who registered on or before December 16, 2021, on Libera will be eligible.

Libera members/staff

While many issues arose between myself and the Libera team, I remain thankful for their hard work and efforts in the past, and continue to recognize their importance in the ecosystem of the FOSS community. The allocation for the Libera ownership is 15% of all tokens.

Operators who helped to protect freenode

When the network was in an adverse situation, operators from other IRC networks rose to the occasion, and helped to protect, secure and operate the network. I am forever thankful for their efforts. The allocation for these operators is 2.5% of all tokens.

Current freenode staff

The current staff of freenode consists of some of the operators who helped regain control of freenode. This group continued to stay and help protect and operate freenode. The allocation for these operators is 5% of all tokens.

freenode’s partner in IRC.com

freenode owns IRC.com as the other owner has agreed to give it to the DAO. The time and code put into this, which is built upon, and with the open-source Kiwi IRC project, gives way for the dream that both the former freenode staff (now Libera) and the ownership both shared, an open-source, easy to use IRC client. 2.5% of all tokens have been allocated for this partner.

Current ownership of freenode and IRC.com

The current ownership of freenode and IRC.com has put in time, code, and an estimated 3 million dollars into the projects, not including the many years of sponsorships before ownership. The multi-person ownership group has been allocated 5% of all tokens.

Next steps

We will be sharing the next steps through this website moving forward. This will include instructions on how to claim allocations, among other things.

Looking forward

We do not know the direction in which freenode will go moving forward. However, we know that freenode is now where the users of freenode, for a quarter of a century, wished it to be, in the hands of the commons; in the hands of the people.

We are excited to see what freenode will be in the future.

Toward decentralization.

Toward power to the people.

[1] https://old.freenode.net/static/files/on-freenode.pdf, page 4, includes the initial conversation as discussed here.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_law

[3] See DALnet, https://www.dal.net/?page=DALnet%20Policies%20and%20Procedures

[4] Lead to requiring legal representation to protect former staff members

# freenode decentralization ## History freenode, formerly known as the Open Projects Network, is an IRC network which began in 1998 and is the home of FOSS. Many projects trace their roots back to freenode, including Bitcoin. Many of the biggest, most widely used projects that are used by people all over the globe have or continue to call freenode home. freenode was originally owned by Rob Levin, also known as “lilo” on the network. The network began to grow under his strong leadership, until he was met with an untimely death. At this point, “christel” inherited the network. While running freenode, christel helped grow the network to what it is today. For over the past decade, freenode was sponsored by companies that I, Andrew Lee, owned. christel felt that I was an excellent fit for a custodian of freenode, and later passed the ownership to me. Since 2017, I’ve been the custodian and sole owner of freenode. Under my ownership, with the continued help of christel, freenode grew larger as it began hosting live events in the United Kingdom for the free and open source software community. However, in 2021, internal issues led to the resignation of christel, and the former chief of staff asked to take control of the domain name. Initially, this made sense, but a better approach was to take the unfortunate circumstance and instead decentralize freenode and give ownership to the people [1]. However, we were met, instead, with a takeover attempt in which some former staff members seized control of the core network assets and locked us out. Alarmed by this brazen act of hostility, several former and original freenode staffers, alongside staffers from all of the top IRC Networks ranging from EFnet, DALnet, Undernet, Rizon, and IRCnet, co-cooperated and were able to re-secure the network. However, once freenode was secured, the network was met with smear, spam, and troll campaigns. In an attempt to protect the network, we locked down IRC channels that were explicitly reported by users as engaging in this nefarious activity. This defense proved to be too strong and ended up locking down more than just malicious channels. Upon this, in addition to the many rumors, a number of FOSS groups left freenode. What many now call the great IRC war has since ended, but in the wake of the destruction remains two wholly separate IRC networks, with a combined user base a mere fraction of the original freenode, and a severely fractured free and open-source software community. One IRC Network, freenode, remains centrally controlled by me. The other, Libera Chat, remains centrally controlled by a group mainly consisting of former freenode staffers. ## freenode belongs to the people In the aftermath of the “war” and throughout the past few months, the freenode team has been engaging in discussion with the community at large to understand the users’ wants and needs. Countless users, in the thousands, have been vocal about the critical importance of freenode to them, as it is “a part of their life.” ### Ownership of the commons One major issue that we have found is disbelief that an IRC network could in fact, be owned by an individual or a group. The general consensus of the people is that an IRC network should be owned by all people. ### Staff and Contributor Contributions Another major issue that we have heard loud and clear is that most IRC networks management and staff operate as opaque, walled gardens. As a result, it is difficult to know the inner workings of the IRC network, which leads to distrust in the safety of communications, among other things, and the hindrance of progress as well-meaning contributors are blocked. ### Policies not in line with the user base Finally, the third, and yet, still frequent issue was that the policies enacted and governing the use of IRC networks sometimes do not fall in line with the overall user base. ### Summary of issues While all of the issues are very different, they are all in line with one common theme -- the IRC Network should belong to, and direction should be dictated by the people -- in this case, the IRC users. ## Centralized IRC Networks While a form of federation and democracy, for operational issues, exists within most IRC networks, the IRC networks themselves remain centrally owned and controlled. At the end of the day, someone must own the domain name and database. This results in an organization designed within the constraints of the existing communication system in which it was developed, a theoretical endpoint for many as once thought by Conway [2]. While some structures have seen success [3], in theory, there would be no legal repercussion to the owner of any network redirecting IRC traffic elsewhere and/or simply not linking to other servers run by others. ### Solutions to Centralized IRC Networks While there are a plethora of different theoretical approaches to solving the problem of centralization within the constraints of the IRC protocol, in this document, we’re going to focus on some of the methods we have seen deployed in the wild: #### Former freenode network The former freenode network was owned by an individual. The individual would select sub-committee leads, who would then choose team members. The structure leads to a loose form of nepotism as that is the rational path given trust and relationship would play an inherent role in this organizational design given the importance of the privacy and security of users. However, this gave rise to a reduction of the talent pool for development, among other things. Additionally, most significant complaints received within this model were the closed nature of the operating team and the closed nature of bans and channel founder modifications deployed [4]. Further, at any given point, the owner could simply redirect the domain name without repercussion. The users, and channels, had no control over the network. #### Libera Chat Libera Chat deploys an ownership model consisting of former staff members from the freenode network. The ownership is spread evenly among the former freenode staff members, which removes a single person point of failure and improves on the former freenode organizational structure. Redirecting a domain name would have legal repercussions. This model, however, lacks transparency and continues to operate in an opaque nature and, essentially, is subject to the same issues as the former freenode, with the improvement of being spread among many as opposed to spread among one. The users, and channels, have no control over the network. #### Rizon Rizon deploys a model consisting of a small group of leads whom each have full authority over their respective divisions. Any major change to the network, including the addition of a server, must be voted on by all server admins. The ownership of the domain name for Rizon, is held separately by an independent third party that is not associated with the IRC Network anymore. Rizon is an open network, and new staff continually join through a democratic vote. This model still suffers from the same issue as the former freenode model, wherein the domain owner can simply redirect traffic. Additionally, the users, and channels, have no control over the network. ## Introducing the freenode decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) It is with humility and understanding that we have constructed the freenode decentralization plan with the users. In March of 2021, the Great State of Wyoming enacted into legislation the ability for algorithmically managed companies, or DAOs, to legally own and operate LLC entities. This gives the ability for freenode to transform its operations from privately owned property to one of which belongs to the commons, by proxy, through smart contracts. ### freenode DAO Operations A DAO-owned operation is unique in that the direction of the smart contract is uniquely delegated to smart contract code in the blockchain and thus immutable. There are many mechanisms by which the DAOs code can define the management. In the case of freenode, which belongs to the people, we chose to go with a voting system. ### freenode freenode consists of the freenode IRC network and freenode.net, freenode.org, and freenode.com. freenode also owns IRC.com, a project with over $2,000,000.00 of research and development, which is its own always-on IRC client in the cloud with apps for iOS and Android. Finally, freenode operates a link aggregator and message board on its main website. ### freenode DAO Voting In a non-DAO operation, the Board/Ownership elects or appoints a leader or teams within an organization. In the case of the freenode DAO, all token holders can stake tokens to participate in a vote to help the smart contract to determine these different roles. In addition, any and all structuring that will be laid down to operate the network will be decided by the smart contract, who will take a vote through token holders. Any token holder can also submit a proposal to the smart contract, to conduct a vote. Initially, the network will operate in a form resembling a direct democracy. While we are uncertain of what is in store in the future, we imagine the direct democracy may eventually become cumbersome. We imagine different proposals for structures and roles will come to fruition. ### freenode DAO Tokens and Allocations The freenode DAO smart contract will create 100,000,000.00000000 tokens which are used to stake for voting. The allocation of these coins will be made available to the following: #### Current freenode userbase freenode is nothing without its userbase. The userbase should have a direct say in the direction and operation of the IRC Network. The allocation for the freenode userbase will be 25% of all tokens. Users who registered on or before December 16, 2021, will be eligible. #### Current freenode channels freenode is also nothing without its channels. The channels should also have a direct say in the direction and operation of the network. The allocation for the freenode channels will be 10% of all tokens. Channels who registered on or before December 16, 2021, will be eligible. #### Libera userbase The Libera userbase would be the freenode userbase if they dictated the direction of freenode. The allocation for the Libera userbase will be 25% of all tokens. Users registered on or before December 16, 2021, on Libera will be eligible. #### Libera channels The Libera channel base would be the freenode channel base if they dictated the direction of freenode. The allocation for the Libera channelbase will be 10% of all tokens. Channels who registered on or before December 16, 2021, on Libera will be eligible. #### Libera members/staff While many issues arose between myself and the Libera team, I remain thankful for their hard work and efforts in the past, and continue to recognize their importance in the ecosystem of the FOSS community. The allocation for the Libera ownership is 15% of all tokens. #### Operators who helped to protect freenode When the network was in an adverse situation, operators from other IRC networks rose to the occasion, and helped to protect, secure and operate the network. I am forever thankful for their efforts. The allocation for these operators is 2.5% of all tokens. #### Current freenode staff The current staff of freenode consists of some of the operators who helped regain control of freenode. This group continued to stay and help protect and operate freenode. The allocation for these operators is 5% of all tokens. #### freenode’s partner in IRC.com freenode owns IRC.com as the other owner has agreed to give it to the DAO. The time and code put into this, which is built upon, and with the open-source Kiwi IRC project, gives way for the dream that both the former freenode staff (now Libera) and the ownership both shared, an open-source, easy to use IRC client. 2.5% of all tokens have been allocated for this partner. #### Current ownership of freenode and IRC.com The current ownership of freenode and IRC.com has put in time, code, and an estimated 3 million dollars into the projects, not including the many years of sponsorships before ownership. The multi-person ownership group has been allocated 5% of all tokens. ## Next steps We will be sharing the next steps through this website moving forward. This will include instructions on how to claim allocations, among other things. ## Looking forward We do not know the direction in which freenode will go moving forward. However, we know that freenode is now where the users of freenode, for a quarter of a century, wished it to be, in the hands of the commons; in the hands of the people. We are excited to see what freenode will be in the future. Toward decentralization. Toward power to the people. [1] https://old.freenode.net/static/files/on-freenode.pdf, page 4, includes the initial conversation as discussed here. [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_law [3] See DALnet, https://www.dal.net/?page=DALnet%20Policies%20and%20Procedures [4] Lead to requiring legal representation to protect former staff members

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