Is EFnet Dying?


revised Jul 16, 2001
by Joseph Lo Ph.D. aka Jolo

Note: This guide was originally written in September 2000 [ext. link] when EFnet had some problems which led to rumors of its imminent demise. Ironically, there have been much worse incidents since then, including July 2001 [ext. link] when much of the network was crippled by attacks. With very few changes, the following comments still apply.

Is EFnet dying? Short version: No... At least not in the way the rumors claim. In recent days, rumors have been running rampant. Some people are even talking about a specific shutdown date or time ("hub servers will all /squit in 15 minutes!!!"). People keep asking about it ad nauseum, so I'm going to try to answer as best as I can.

First of all, I'm no EFnet spokesmodel. Nobody is. I'm a helper on #irchelp and #mirc, and I am the webmaster of http://www.irchelp.org/. I am not an IRC operator or administrator, however, nor am I sleeping with any of them, so I don't have any inside secrets. I just wanted to separate facts from rumors based on my experience and conversations with opers.

Why is EFnet sucking so badly? It started with so-called "packet/script kiddies" disconnecting other users with denial of service (DoS) attacks to take over a channel or nickname, a practice which was ignored by most IRC admins since EFnet has no notion of channel/nick ownership. The DoS attacks quickly escalated to IRC servers themselves, either to take channels or in retaliation against admins who tried to interfere in such takeovers. That's why servers keep splitting or dying. In part to deter these attackers, the admins of the all servers severely curtailed who they allow to connect. That's why suddenly we are all having so many connection problems. (No, it's not just you, we all have trouble these days.) As more people converge on a dwindling number of servers, this becomes a vicious cycle.

Will EFnet die next week/month/whatever? Probably not. First, EFnet IRC admins do not preview their decisions. If it does happen, it'll be quick and you'll find out after the fact. Moreover, there is no centralized EFnet authority, so there is no way a decision could be made to shut the whole network down. EFnet is a chaotic union of independent servers run by unaffiliated individuals. Any claims that somebody has organized such a shutdown are by definition fake.

But if X servers all go away, isn't it as good as dead? Maybe. Even if the admins of many servers all decided to delink their servers, that doesn't necessarily spell doom. Remember when dozens of servers all left EFnet to form IRCnet? Since that split, both EFnet and IRCnet prospered, each doubling their user count. Even if such a split occured, new servers may pop up to take their place, existing ones may decide to allow more connections, etc. Then again, things may go straight to Hades. It's just impossible to predict, and futile to speculate.

Isn't EFnet dead already? Perhaps, since it's been impossible to run a permanent, public channel on EFnet for years now unlesss you're willing to devote a tremendous amount of time and resources to it. People have a lot of trouble connecting, troublemakers DoS attack people or take over channels for no reason, new server protections like "no ops on split" keep legitimate ops from recovering ops, splits keep interrupting conversations, whole channels have defected to other networks, etc. EFnet is lurching along like The X-Files in its 9th season, except it's been around even longer than that! To skeptics, these recent woes were just another nail in the coffin.

Where can I find authoritative information? I'll tell you where you can't - ignore Usenet newsgroups, ignore chat channels (definitely stop bothering help channels - they don't know!), ignore dramatic /notice's from spammers and strangers. All of that is just rumor-mongering. Stick to the few facts at hand:

Argh, you've just confused me more! The truth is, people have been saying EFnet is going to die for years, and many years from now they'll probably still be saying that. My advice - don't worry about what you cannot change or control. Que sera, sera.

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