Why Choose AfterNET?

Because Freedom is Important

When AfterNET was founded (back in 1996) we weren't just a bunch of nerds who liked running IRC servers, though that was part of it. We believed then and continue to believe today that IRC is important, and it wasn't being done right. IRC provides a connection between people you can't get over email or forums, and more real-time than Facebook groups or twitter. IRC builds communities and trust between online members.

And, IRC is HARD to do right. As with any structured system involving people, politics are everywhere. Who tells who what who can say or do where. Since it's largely public access, like the real world, IRC is full of all types of people from sweet grannies to psychopaths. The people in power are often just whoever happened to have resources regardless of their level of maturity.

The first IRC network, called EFnet, solved the problem by having no sense of laws at all. Like the wild west, anyone could get power, and lose it just as quickly. To survive as a user to chat and meet people, you had to group up to protect your channel and were often subjected to all sorts of harassment by people “just because they can”.

To fix this problem, Undernet, and later Dalnet were formed with a highly structured environment with invincible channel services bots to enforce ownership, and improved server software to reduce abuse. With more structure, however, came more control, and centralized control has lead to other problems such as abuse by IRC operators. Unfortunately, as it got bigger, it became again like EFnet as the network staff were unable to keep up with the rising user count.

I started using IRC sometime in the middle of this turmoil, and after several bad experiences and the loss of friends who just couldn't take the problems, I decided to put my BBS sysop experience to use, and see if I couldn't make a difference. I joined with some new friends operating a small independent IRC network called TheNET. There, I had my first dose of just how hard it is to do IRC right. A year later, my friends and I decided to break from the IRC tradition and found a new network designed to be how IRC should be:

  • Democracy. Everyone involved and putting work into the network gets a say about what happens. We vote on what servers to link in and who to trust as an operator. We talk freely and honestly about the issues and come to solutions that work for everyone involved, whenever possible. We run only 100% open source software, so no one has a monopoly on our technology.
  • Freedom of Speech. Essential to any community, we have almost no rules regarding what you can talk about or who you can talk with. We don't police the content on our network, but we provide every user an equal and fair opportunity to read or not read text from anyone else. Channel operators are free to do or ban anything they want in their channel without interference. We draw the line only at severe illegal activities, such as child pornography, spam, or making serious threats against others.
  • Friendliness. Our operators are always available to help answer questions and do whatever they can do to improve our users' IRC experience. And, they are trained to use listening skills and diplomacy to solve problems as much as possible.
  • Justice. Operators have clear roles and are punished heavily for stepping outside their bounds. We are not allowed to interfere with channel politics or use our powers based on any personal feelings toward a subject. We have a strict set of operator guidelines so every user knows the bounds of what can be done and how to protect themselves from other users. They are all designed so that only when someone goes outside the system and “cheats” do the operators step in. Our users can trust us not to interfere.
  • Quality and Stability. We do everything possible to provide the best technical service we can. We strive for quality over quantity. We run only on the most stable internet service providers, and consider limiting net splits, lag, and downtime our highest priority. AfterNET has been running for over 13 years, and many of our original members are still here chatting.
  • Community Involvement. We try to provide opportunities for anyone who wants to contribute to AfterNET to make our environment better. As much as is possible in today's world, our systems are open for community inspection and peer review. AfterNET is only as good as everyone who contributes to it, from code to documentation to just a friendly greeting for new users.

<digg> Overwhelmingly, AfterNET is a community. We conducted a survey of our users to find out what we could do to improve, and what they liked and disliked. Almost all of our users say the same thing: AfterNET is like their family.

We invite you to join our family.