The Internet Relay Chat, a text-based chat system has been around for quite some time and while you may recall it from the old days of the Internet, you may also be thinking “didn’t that go away a long time ago?” And the answer to that would be “no”. While IRC is no where near as popular as it was during the Gulf War (1991), it continues to be a regular online hangout for a lot of tech communities.

I’ve been a registered Freenode (one particular network) user for as long as I can remember and can often be found lurking in a few channels like #gnuradio, #satnogs, #librespace, and #highaltitude.

But it came to pass a little more than a month ago that freenode underwent what some staff described as a “hostile takeover”, and at least 14 volunteer staff members resigned. Following the events, various organizations using freenode moved their channels to Libera Chat, a new network created by former freenode staff.

I don’t know all the sticky details and am not really interested. If you spend any time in or around the Open Source community you know it’s fraught with high-strung people prone to occasional fits of drama and outrage over issues that might pass for business as usual in other communities and you get used to it.

Whew - what a month (and a couple of days). Few of us expected earlier in the year to have to create a new IRC network, from scratch, in a few days!

And yet, that’s what we did. On May 19th, Libera Chat, formed by the ex freenode staff team, opened its doors. We’re incredibly grateful for the many thousands of you who followed us. With your help, we have a thriving network of over 15 000 channels and 40 000 registered users across more than 700 projects, communities and informal spaces, and we did that in the space of a month.

The channels I follow are now hosted on Libera.Chat where I have since registered and the new network seems to be chugging along just fine. If you suddenly find your favorite IRC channel missing on Freenode, you may discover they too were part of the Great Migration of ‘21.