The Great Split by Vegard Engen / May 2000
In the beginning there was IRC. Only IRC. One
network, that's it. This was more or less anarchy, and probably it worked very
much like the smaller networks now. IRC-operators had a lot of powers, and
things were small enough that one could semi-know things about channel
The net grew. One began to think whether or not there has to be limits as to
who are to link servers to the network, etc. There was a part of the network
that didn't like these limitations at all. One of these servers were called
Eris, it's location is quite irrelevant. Anyways, this was the first time the
famous Q-line was used. Eris was a so-called server-open server, which meant
anyone could link a server to it. Some of the admins of that time decided this
wasn't a terribly good idea, but was unable to convince Eris to change it's
policy. Thus, one installed the Q-lines. A Q-line basically means that
"I'll drop the link to whatever server that introduces this server". Eris and
a few other servers decided to form a network on it's own, Anet, for
Anarchy-network. How successfull it was, I don't know, it died after a while
For a while, there was peace. More or less. But, more and more people wanted
to run servers. At the same time, the requirements for running a server got
stricter and stricter, more and more bandwidth was required, and most people
who wanted to link their server was rejected. Thus was born Undernet, or the
underground network. Dalnet was not long after.
EFnet, however, or whatever you choose to call it, continued to grow and get
larger. Around 95/96, two fractions began to appear on EFNet/IRCnet. And
between these two fractions, there were basically two things one disagreed
The limit between these two went more or less along the Atlantic, with
Europe on one side and US on the other, with a few servers on each side siding
with the other side.
- What strategy one should adopt to limit nick collisions. Timestamps or
- The role of the IRC-ops/administrators. Should an IRC-operator have ALL
rights, or should one have rules for the conduct of an IRC-operator.
Summer '96, several things happened.
There was an attempt going, mainly driven by Europe, to introduce a common
set of rules. In Europe, we'd had such a ruleset for some time already, so
we decided we'd try to work on it, and try to find a common set of rules
that everyone agreed to. In Europe, it was basically a definite requirement
for the rules that only things disruptive to servers or to the net as a
whole warranted operator-invention, while channel trouble was to be left to
the channel operators. In US, some operators were not willing at all to give
up their rights to /kill. Unfortunately, one of these US operators was running
the largest US hub, and several US admins were afraid to go against him, in
fear of losing their link.
The link between US and Europe was quite
weak and kept breaking a lot. There was basically one decent uplink,
irc.stealth.net. irc.stealth.net was ran by a person disliked by many US
admins, basically because of his young age, and some serious mistakes done by
him. Europe thought the link was important enough to keep his server, at LEAST
until a decent replacement was found. Some US admins disagreed, but it was
agreed upon in general that irc.stealth.net stayed until a replacement was in
place. However, a few IRC-admins in US took things in their own hands, and
several times delinked the server, thereby breaking the US/Europe link. This
without attempting any rerouting, and leaving the link in limbo. Thus, some
Europeans got quite angry at this.
During this time, it became apparent to the european part that we were not
going to get these rules through while these admins were in control. So,
we started lobbying for a change of network structure, calling it a
"new network". Originally, we'd planned for the new network to include most
of the old one. But, we knew that once these powerful admins got to know about
this effort, they'd try to blow the plan. So, we tried to keep it secret until
we had enough support on the US side.
However, the plan failed. One of the admins we thought to be trustable
forwarded our mail to this powerful hub-admin which opposed any rules. Now,
suddenly, we saw all the people who'd privately given us their support,
vanish into the air. Some of them bluntly said that they could not support
us, because that if this plan failed, they'd not have a link.
But, we still hoped that if we went through with it, enough people would
Now, even at the european side, only 3-4 persons knew about this
"new network"-effort. We'd planned to inform them later, knowing that since
all of them supported the rules, they'd also support this initiative. But,
we didn't want anyone to blow the plan.
Anyways, one night when 4 of us were discussing this plan, trying to fix a
time for the separation, the before-mentioned US admin did it again. He split
the link between US and Europe, not even trying to warn anyone. Suddenly it
occured to us: Why not just declare the split to have happened NOW? So,
while we sat there, we didn't try to relink, and 15 minutes later, a mail was
sent off to operlist declaring the split to have happened.
The following days were followed by talks between admins in various parts of
the world, when people tried to find out which side they wanted to be on. In
the end, basically Europe, Australia and Japan ended up on one side, the rest
joined the american side. This meant that the absolute largest part of the
network was EFnet. While the other was largest, we DID however contain
Finland and Oulu, where IRC was born. Thus, we decided "why not call it
IRCNet? After all, the very first parts of IRC is with us, so we have a claim
to be THE IRC-network". And not only that, but the coder who coded the
IRC-server, which basically was common between US/Europe, minus TS on one side
and Nick/Channel-delay on the other, was Australian, and thus now coded for
the IRCnet server. EFnet, however, now started maintaining their own
IRC-server, but the code-base was common up until this point.