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Ubuntu, Wikimedia jump ship to the Libera Chat IRC network after Freenode channel confiscations

Transition interrupted by 'hostile takeover' - plus Fedora's moving too

Updated One of the bigger beasts of the Linux world, Ubuntu, has abruptly jumped ship to Libera Chat from the Freenode IRC network after what the Ubuntu Community Council described as a "hostile takeover" of its namespaces.

Just hours ago at the time of publication, Wikimedia also upped sticks.

For Ubuntu, the move had been on the cards following a mass resignation of volunteer staff at Freenode, a veteran Internet Relay Chat (IRC) service, following what has been described as a hostile takeover. The suddenness of the shift, however, came as a surprise.

A departure note from José Antonio Rey, an Ubuntu Community Council member, at the time noted the change in ownership of the service. Rey also said: "Whether Ubuntu decides to stay on freenode or move to libera would be a decision of the Ubuntu IRC Council."

Anyone wondering which way the Ubuntu IRC Council would jump soon had their answer as a resolution aimed at transitioning to "for the IRC home of Ubuntu and the namespaces" turned up on Ubuntu's mailing list.

The transition has turned out to be a little bumpier than hoped for.

A terse note from Melissa Draper arrived in the list last night complaining that channels announcing the move to Libera.Chat "were confiscated by the new freenode management."

"We were still finalizing our move and had not yet completed the transition to Libera Chat," said Draper.

The result? An immediate, wholesale move.

The Gentoo Linux project also complained of "hijacking" by Freenode staff last night and Freenode boss Andrew Lee told The Register at the time: "Frankly speaking, if I was in charge of any of these organizations, I'd revisit the decision of who is in charge of making decisions on what and how their brand is being represented on IRC."

Lee posted something a little less confrontational on the Freenode site and insisted what had been perceived as a "hostile takeover" or "hijack" was merely the enacting of a policy "in those places which were deemed in violation and could cause an issue later."

"We believe we should have done this in a much more communicative way to circulate the right message and keep things transparent which of course did not happen," said Lee. "There are no excuses for this," Lee went on, "and I'm willing to admit that I was wrong with yesterday's move and apologize for the inconvenience that may have caused."

Somewhere, we suspect, there is a stable door flapping as a horse disappears over a hill. ®

Updated at 08:40 on 28 May 2021 to add:

Since we published this piece, Fedora has also announced plans to depart freenode for Libera.Chat. Andrew Lee got in touch with us and said: "Many communities are at risk of being cancelled by the community so I can understand why some have moved and others choose to stay quiet. However, many are taking a stand and the tides are beginning to turn. Our users have made their choice - the choice to stay.

"Freenode has survived and will continue to provide support to FOSS communities for years to come. Thanks goes out to the few who have moved for what they do, and we wish them the best."

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