Founded 1995 (1995)
1998 (1998)
Geographic location Asia, Pacific Rim, Europe, United States
Based in United Kingdom
Website URL
Primary DNS irc://
Average users 90,000–100,000
Average channels 35,000–45,000
Average servers 32
Content/subject Public / unrestricted

Freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is an IRC network used to discuss peer-directed projects.[1] Their servers are all accessible from the domain name[2] and,[3] which load balances connections by using the actual servers in rotation.[4][5] In 2010, it became the largest free and open source software-focused IRC network[6] and, as of 2013, the largest IRC network,[7] regardless of focus, encompassing more than 90,000 users and 40,000 channels, gaining almost 5,000 new users per year.


Freenode is centrally managed. Staffers or staff (as IRC operators are called) have the same access across all servers. A list of active staff can be viewed using the /stats p command. Some operations that would normally only apply to one server (like k-lines) are propagated across the whole network. Servers are "donated" to the network, rather than "linked."[8]

The network focuses on supporting peer-directed and open source projects.[9] Channels not related to these things are considered off-topic and encouraged to find a home elsewhere. To support this distinction, channels are divided into namespaces. Primary on-topic channels begin with a single #, and groups wanting to use such a channel must officially register with freenode. "About" channels begin with two ##, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis without needing a group registration.[10]

Server software

Freenode currently runs Atheme IRC Services and ircd-seven, a set of freenode-specific patches on the Charybdis ircd (based on ratbox). In 1999 freenode ran an ircd called dancer (based on IRC-Hybrid) then switched to hyperion in 2005. By 2010 hyperion was replaced with ircd-seven[11] which occurred on 30 January 2010.[12][13]


There are 23 freenode servers around the world as of October 2014.

Freenode began as a 4-person Linux support channel called #LinPeople on EFnet, another IRC network. By 1995 after moving to Undernet and then DALnet it moved from being just a channel to its own network, In early 1998 it changed to Open Projects Net (OPN) with about 200 users and under 20 channels.[14] The OPN soon grew to become the largest network for the free software community, and 20th largest in the world. In 2002 the name changed to freenode and the Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) was founded.[15] PDPC was a registered IRS 501(c)(3) charity from 2002[9] until approximately 2010,[16] during which it received support from such organizations as the Linux Fund in 2007.[17]

On 24 June 2006, a user with the nickname "ratbert" gained the network privileges of freenode administrator Rob Levin (lilo) and took control of the network. It is likely that approximately 25 user passwords were stolen as a result.[18] This user proceeded to K-line many freenode staff members, and most freenode servers subsequently went down for several hours.[19]

Around 30 January 2010, a new attack was discovered on freenode that had never been seen before in the wild. The Internet troll organisation the Gay Nigger Association of America, famous for the shock site Last Measure, created a piece of JavaScript that caused users of Firefox, as well as SeaMonkey and Mozilla to silently connect to freenode and flood it. This exploit used an ability of Firefox to submit web forms to a port other than 80 (the default HTTP port). Whilst Firefox developers had blocked most ports some time ago,[20] port 6667, the port for IRC, was not blocked.[21][22]

On 2 February 2014 Freenode suffered a DDoS attack (confirmed by @freenodestaff on Twitter) which caused a partial outage.[23]

On 22 February 2014 Freenode suffered another DDoS attack (confirmed by @freenodestaff on Twitter)[24] which caused partial outage followed by several botnets which attempted to attack #freenode but were redirected to #freenode-unreg. After the attacks several servers remained nullrouted by their providers and for a short time period only a single server in rotation was accepting connections.[25]

On 13 September 2014 a DDoS attack occurred which caused the network to split for several hours followed by several botnet attacks in the #freenode channel and against Freenode's services. Freenode's infrastructure team noticed a vulnerability on one of their IRC servers. So far the team has only managed to identify indication of the server being compromised by an unknown third party. Freenode recommended that all users change their NickServ password for safety reasons, and has temporarily taken the compromised server offline until the vulnerability is fixed.[26][27] A deep technical analysis of the rootkit used in the attack was released on 14 October 2014.[28]

Peer-Directed Projects Center

The Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) is known as the organization which ran[29] the freenode IRC network,[30] where many prominent open source projects host their official IRC channels. The PDPC was incorporated in England and Wales.

PDPC was created to run the freenode network and to establish a variety of programs relating to peer-directed project communities. According to its charter, the PDPC exists "to help peer-directed project communities flourish", mostly based around free and open source software projects, and encouraging the use of free software through supporting its development. The GNU Project[31] uses the freenode network for communication.

The PDPC was founded and initially directed by Rob Levin. In November 2006, the board went through a reshuffle and new members were installed. Seth Schoen left and Christel Dahlskjaer, senior freenode staffer became the secretary and head of staff on freenode in Schoen's place. Also joining the board was David Levin, Rob's brother.[32]

In March 2013, the PDPC was dissolved. The decision to dissolve was made in part due to the donation levels and costs associated with maintaining its status as a charitable organization in the UK.[29]

Rob Levin

Robert Levin (16 December 1955 – 16 September 2006),[33][34] also known as lilo, was the founder of the freenode IRC network and Executive Director of the PDPC charity that helped fund freenode.[35] A computer programmer since 1968, Levin worked as an administrator and an applications programmer from 1978 until his death.

On 12 September 2006, Levin was struck by a car while riding a bicycle at night in Houston, Texas, in a hit-and-run collision. After the collision, it was reported that Levin was hospitalized for several days. He died on 16 September.[33]


From 1994 onwards, Levin worked to encourage the use of IRC for Free Software and Open Source projects. Levin was one of the founders of the OpenProjects Network (OPN), which quickly grew to become the largest IRC network used by the free software community. The OpenProjects domains were later put up for sale, but did not sell.[36]

In 2003 The Register (UK) reported that Levin mismanaged funds intended for the OPN, quoting him as writing that they went "to paying bills, to paying the rent, to buying food and necessities."[36]


  1. Mutton, Paul (2004). IRC Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools. Cambridge: O'Reilly Media. pp. 2, 393, etc. ISBN 0-596-00687-X.
  2. irc://
  3. irc://
  4. "About freenode: IRC Servers". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  5. Kottizen (4 March 2012). "Freenode is still growing". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  6. Gelhausen, Andreas. "Network statistics over the last two weeks". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  7. "Freenode IRC network". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  8. "Hosting a Server". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  9. 1 2 "Peer-Directed Projects Center". Network for Good. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  10. "Policies: Channel Naming". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  11. "ircd-seven". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  12. phrozen77 (30 January 2010). "freenode migration to ircd-seven successfully completed". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  13. "Migration to ircd-seven". 26 January 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  14. Filson, Eric; Rosebrock, Eric (2004). Setting Up Lamp: Getting Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP Working Together. John Wiley & Sons. p. 374. ISBN 978-0782143379. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  15. "History and Growth". Archived from the original on 26 September 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  16. "Exempt Organizations Select Check: Automatic Revocation of Exemption Information". Internal Revenue Service. Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  17. Orion, Egan (21 August 2007). "The Linux Fund rises again". The Inquirer. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  18. "Freenode Network Hijacked, Passwords Compromised?". Slashdot. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  19. Farrell, Nick (26 June 2006). "Freenode IRC Network hacked". The Inquirer. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  20. "Mozilla Port Blocking". Mozilla. 15 August 2007.
  21. Constantin, Lucian (30 January 2010). "Firefox Bug Used to Harass Entire IRC Network". Softpedia. Retrieved 19 March 2013. A group of self-declared Internet trolls, called the GNAA, has used an old but obscure attack method to wreak havoc on the Freenode IRC network. Users were forced to execute IRC commands after visiting maliciously crafted Web pages
  22. van der Meijs, Sander (1 February 2010). "Bug in Firefox gebruikt tegen IRC netwerk". Webwereld (in Dutch). IDG Netherlands. Retrieved 19 March 2013. Een groep die zichzelf de GNAA noemt heeft voor grote problemen gezorgd bij een IRC netwerk. Ze gebruikten een bug in Firefox om het netwerk te spammen. [A group that calls itself the GNAA has caused major problems in an IRC network. They used a bug in Firefox for the network to spam]
  23. "Freenode IRC is down". Hacker News. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  24. "We're being DDoS'd. Things might appear splitty or otherwise broken, but we and our most gracious sponsors (thank you!) are mitigating it.". 22 February 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  25. "Turbulence". staffblog. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  26. "Server issues". staffblog. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  27. "Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach". The Register. 15 September 2014. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  28. "Analysis of the Linux backdoor used in freenode IRC network compromise". Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  29. 1 2 RichiH (19 March 2013). "Bye bye PDPC". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  30. "About the Network". Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC). Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  31. "GNU Project Will Use Freenode as Its Official IRC Network". GNU Project. 26 August 2002. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  32. "Introducing the PDPC board". 11 November 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  33. 1 2 christel (23 September 2006). "Rob Levin, a man who will be greatly missed". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  34. "Robert Levin (1955 - 2006) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  35. "Peer-Directed Projects Center". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  36. 1 2 McCarthy, Kieren (29 January 2003). "Buy a piece of Net nostalgia for $5,000". The Register. Retrieved 19 March 2013.

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