The freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is an IRC network used to discuss peer-directed projects. Their servers are accessible from the host names chat.freenode.net, which load balances connections by using the actual servers in rotation. In addition, a web client is available at webchat.freenode.net. In 2010, it became the largest free and open source software-focused IRC network; as of 2013, it was the largest IRC network, regardless of focus, encompassing more than 90,000 users and 40,000 channels.
The freenode began as a four-person Linux support channel called #LinPeople on EFnet, another IRC network. By 1995, after moving to Undernet, and then to DALnet, it moved from being just a channel to its own network, irc.linpeople.org. In early 1998, it changed to Open Projects Net (OPN) with about 200 users and under 20 channels. 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. PDPC was a registered IRS 501(c)(3) charity from 2002 until approximately 2010, during which it received support from such organizations as the Linux Fund in 2007.
On 24 June 2006, a user with the nickname "ratbert" gained administrative 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. This user proceeded to K-line many freenode staff members, and most freenode servers subsequently went down for several hours.
On 2 February 2014, freenode suffered a DDoS attack (confirmed by @freenodestaff on Twitter) which caused a partial outage.
On 22 February 2014, freenode suffered another DDoS attack 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.
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 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. A deep technical analysis of the rootkit used in the attack was released on 14 October 2014.
In 2015, freenode was bridged to Matrix via matrix.org.
On 14 April 2017, it was announced that freenode had been sold to London Trust Media doing business as Private Internet Access.
On 17 August 2017, freenode suffered from a "fairly extensive spambot attack ... containing child pornography images." In the midst of combating the attack, the operators accidentally set a K-Line banning most users of the network. The spambot attack continued in the following year, involved even more networks and was called "Freenodegate", seeing the creation of sites against the administrators of freenode with accusations to favor pedophilia and their reaction through editing the server configuration (IRC usermodes), to stem the spread of those messages and reassure users.
The 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".
The network focuses on supporting peer-directed and open-source projects. Primary on-topic channels begin with a single #, and groups wanting to use such a channel may officially register with freenode. "About" channels, which may not be about a peer-directed or open-source project, begin with two ##, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The freenode currently runs Atheme IRC Services and IRCd-Seven, a set of freenode-specific patches on the Charybdis IRCd (itself based on Ratbox). In 1999, freenode ran an IRCd called Dancer (based on IRC-Hybrid), then switched to Hyperion in 2005. Hyperion was then replaced with IRCd-Seven on 30 January 2010.