Why EFnet/IRCnet has no registration services?

by Jolo @ EFnet

updated Sep 12, 2009

Norsk oversettelse (Norweigian translation)

This is a frequently asked question, especially by people who start on DALnet or other networks which do support registration, then come to networks like EFnet or IRCnet which do not. Here are some explanations.

This guide has become especially relevant since DALnet came under relentless attacks in August 2002. See our DALnet Refugee Guide for more info on the many differences between the networks, and how to chat or run a channel on other nets. Don’t assume that everybody is like DALnet, in fact DALnet is unique among the big networks in having full services. Bottomline, you need to learn how to fend for yourself if you want to stay on other nets.

The remaining of this guide will focus on the philosophical question of why other nets have no registration services.

“Why don’t you have services?”

  1. Every network is independent and different. If every network had the exact same services and policies, there wouldn’t be any reason for them to all exist separately.
  2. Some networks like EFnet and IRCnet are so old that they actually predate the idea of services, which were in fact developed specifically for newer networks like DALnet. Implementing services now could be quite controversial. Even in the unlikely event that everybody agreed to adopt registration now, it would be very difficult to establish who owned which channel/nick. For example, if registration took effect on a day when somebody just took over “your” channel/nick temporarily, then that channel/nick would be permanently owned by him instead. Imagine the outrage and chaos that would ensue. EFnet tried to compromise by coming up with a pseudo-chanserv called CHANFIX which effectively helps reasonably large, stable channels to deal with occasional opless or takeover problems.
  3. With registration you lose choices. Most of the “good” channel/nick names are already taken, since anybody can register a name and keep it even when they aren’t online. On networks without registration, everything is first-come first-served, and nothing is permanent. Some people think this is confusing, we prefer to say it’s fair.
  4. With registration you lose freedom. By necessity, registration services give the IRC operators or administrators who run the IRC servers the “magic” ability to give or take away ownership of a channel/nick. You know the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”? On networks with registration, there are often allegations of IRC oper/admin abuse, such as taking over a channel just because they disagree with the policy of the channel or the people who run it. Maybe this is true, maybe it’s just some crybabies whining, but one thing is for sure: On networks without registration, oper/admins have no “magic” powers over channels and you are free to run them any way you want.
  5. With registration comes over-reliance on somebody else to run your channel for you. Once in a while DALnet’s chanserv breaks, and for hours the network is plunged into total chaos. On networks without registration, channel ops are forced to be responsible for their own channels instead of relying on somebody else. At least then you can’t blame anybody else if things go wrong.

Having said all that, there are perfectly good reasons to have services. It can be the only sane way for a relatively small or inexperienced group of users to learn how to run a channel. It can also cut down on a lot of takeover abuse that runs rampant on networks without registration. And when it works, it’s just darn convenient.

But how do I run a channel without services?

The short answer - with experience, resources, and patience. In other words, the old fashioned way. As a channel op, it is your job to run your channel. Generally I advise that you do not try to run a channel unless you already have at least 5 and preferably 10 trusted friends with 24/7 connections to give you a “critical mass”. Then you guys can pass ops back and forth and not lose ops. (Here’s an example mIRC script to do so.) Until you reach that critical mass, there’s really no point in having a channel anyway, not if it’s just going to be you and a bot sitting there staring at each other in silence. There are after all thousands of large, established channels on each of scores of large networks already, it’s very unlikely there is a need for some small, new channel anyway. Just chat on those channels and have fun meeting people, maybe one day when you make enough friends, you can start a new channel together. If you really want to learn how to run a channel, start it on a small network that supports full services.

The long answer - if you are really serious about learning how to run your own big, stable channel, then check out The New IRC Channel Operator’s Guide. It’s very long and technical, but then again nobody said being an op was easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult!

Special note on “bots” - many people will tell you to just get some bots or a botnet. Bots are automated IRC client programs that stay connected 24/7 such as to hold a channel open, give ops, kick out troublemakers, etc. What they don’t tell you is that to be effective, bots need to be stable, which means they should be run on UNIX servers at big companies or ISPs. It takes a lot of computer and IRC experience to set bots up properly, or else the channel gets messed up even more easily. The bottomline is that on a stable channel, bots can make life more convenient, but they never substitute for the critical mass I mentioned above. If you rely on bots for ops, mark my word, you will lose ops soon.

In conclusion, people have free will. Some people like the safety and sanity of services, others prefer the freedom and chaos without them. You can go to any network you like, so just pick one that has the services and policies that suit your needs, as described for many networks on our networks page. In addition to DALnet, there are also many other smaller networks that also have full services. If you just have a group of friends who want a place to chat, I encourage you to try out these smaller nets. They are far less likely to be crippled by attacks like the “Big Five” and can let you chat in peace, which is the whole point of IRC after all.

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