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freenode requires irc.com

Last weekend I wanted to check in again on my Freenode IRC account. I logged into my trusted irssi IRC client and was confronted with these errors:

21:01 [freenode] !*.freenode.net *** You must use TLS/SSL and authenticate via SASL to connect to freenode please visit https://irc.com/login/sso in order to create an account. SASL Configuration: https://freenode.net/kb/answer/sasl -
          Webchat: https://webchat.freenode.net/
21:01 [freenode] -!- Capabilities requested: multi-prefix
21:01 [freenode] -!- Capabilities supported: account-notify account-tag away-notify batch cap-notify chghost draft/relaymsg echo-message extended-join inspircd.org/poison inspircd.org/standard-replies invite-notify labeled-response
          message-tags multi-prefix sasl server-time setname userhost-in-names
21:01 [freenode] !*.freenode.net *** Found your hostname (XXXXXXXXXX.domain.tld)
21:01 [freenode] -!- Capabilities acknowledged: multi-prefix
21:01 [freenode] !*.freenode.net *** Could not find your ident, using ~USERNAME instead.
21:01 [freenode] -!- ERROR Closing link: (~USERNAME@XXXXXXXXXX.domain.tld) [You must use TLS/SSL and authenticate via SASL to connect to freenode please visit https://irc.com/login/sso in order to create an account. SASL Configuration:
          https://freenode.net/kb/answer/sasl - Webchat: https://webchat.freenode.net/]

So I tried to check out the webchat, but it seems to be broken as well:

webchat.freenode.net on 08-08-2021

The only option was to go to the IRC.com website and create an account. With that account I was able to access Freenode again, but I am not happy with this severe change. This triggered me to now finally dropping my nick on Freenode and permanently upgrading to Libera.chat.

P.S. I've requested account and data removal on IRC.com via their contact form (there does not seem to be another way to do that). Hope they are GDPR compliant.