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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, forums, or Usenet. 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:
<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.