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How Discord Went Mainstream (theatlantic.com)
124 points by brian-armstrong 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments

Discord hits a sweet spot of design choices that make sense for online friends occasionally intermingling with strangers on the Internet. It's free and has share-URLs to onboard into the product, it's pseudonymous so one can be known by a chosen persona, it's centrally hosted so DOS-attempts don't impact users' networks, but the management and moderation of channels and spaces is distributed. History is searchable, 1-to-1 conversations exist, voice chat is optional but effortlessly available.

IRC is the ancestor of this kind of chat, but IRC isn't as widely known as it was in past generations, it has connection privacy challenges, and has a less cohesive service identity and onboarding story that people have come to expect with the spread of centralized services. Slack is another modern, centralized take on IRC, but reveals one's email address, and multiparty voice chat is gated behind paid plans and limited in size. Gamer voice chat systems are decentralized and are lacking in text chat. Old instant messaging networks have been shut down, new ones either don't have desktop clients, don't have a good group voice chat, or reveal personal info. Skype was fine on all three and was a hangout tool for many, until Microsoft ran it into the ground.

It's a bit of a meme now that companies are putting out chat services yet no one can do them right. Surely there's economic forces at play, and rich media chat is probably expensive, but there's companies with very deep pockets who could run it as a loss leader just to starve their competitors, to commoditize their own complements. But cloud storage for individuals or video hosting like YouTube is also expensive, yet an upgrade path exists for users who want to pay. Google has thoroughly ceded chat to Facebook and still can't sort their strategy out, Facebook is just now realizing that they could tackle a more private chat too and they could satisfy that demand, Microsoft has morphed Skype into everything from Windows-integrated platformwide IM to a bad Snapchat clone and back again to a WebRTC shim, this time with a Chrome-only client. Asian apps capable, but are focusing on other markets and aren't as well known in the US. Telegram still doesn't have group voice calls. VC companies focus on the enterprise where willingness to pay is higher, amounts are higher, but use-cases are different.

The majority of people I talk to on Discord went the route of AIM/MSN/Yahoo -> Skype -> Discord. The big thing that I found was that the concept of Discord server was so significantly better then using group messages on anything before it that everyone immediately flocked to it. Just the concept of channels is a new one to a lot of these people. The majority were not gamers (never used Teamspeak/Vent/Mumble), or particularly technical people (IRC would not be a good fit).

So props to Discord for making a chat client that's as easy to use as Skype was.

This is exactly what my group went through. The text channels were nice, but the real killer feature for us was the seamless voice channels. In Skype you had to be very careful to not call the whole group, you had to manually construct voice chats every time. Being able to see who's on and who's hanging out in a voice channel is huge. Wanna play games or just have a chat but nobody else is on right now? Just drop into a voice channel and people can see that you're there so they can jump in without having to pee-arrange anything. Another live saver has been the ability to control, on your side, how you hear other people. Friend has a new mic that's too loud / quiet? You can adjust their volume. Somebody being inconsiderate / distracting? Mute them, or turn their volume down super low.

The general stability was also just fantastic compared to Skype. I used some Skype last year as part of a teaching role and good grief was it torture in comparison. Constant dropping, terrible quality, and painful to arrange.

I was a huge Discord fan, but now stopped using it for several reasons.

- I can't mute some channels completely. I have raised bug reports, tried all the various options, researched everything I could find in Google about this issue. Bottom line is that "mute" is taken by Discord to be "only mute, unless I think you need to hear this", with no way to fully mute a channel.

- I only use Discord in browser and it now has a complete and very distracting screen refresh every few seconds.

- It is a memory pig in browser and my browser seems to become unstable after a short time, while running Discord in one of the tabs.

I'm not a fan of Discord but I think you're mistaken.

Right click on the channel icon and go to 'Notification Settings' rather than clicking on 'Server Mute'. From there you can choose whether a mention (inc./ex. @everyone/@here) counts and whether mobile notifications are enabled.

As for the client you may want to try Ripcord[0]. It uses less memory though I'm not sure you can mute people the same way. While I don't think it's ever enforced, technically using other clients is against the Discord ToS.

Either way there are plenty of reasons not to use Discord if you can.

[0] https://cancel.fm/ripcord/

There is no way to mute "Role Pings" on Discord currently. You can mute @here/@everyone/@your name, but if you are assigned a role and that is pinged, it goes through.

That is one of my main gripes with Discord, in addition to:

1. Uploading photos/videos through the mobile app stops if you lock your phone or background the app. No other modern app exhibits this behavior.

2. Blocking users shows a large "BLOCKED" message, with no option to truly block them.

I have channels full of “1 blocked message” messages, thanks to people using stupid pointless chat bots. That is one feature I wish they could implement differently (the idea being that you can click the “blocked message” message to see the content of the blocked message)

Thanks for the ripcord suggestion!

As far as server/channel mute - believe me, I have tried every option, including your suggestions. It works for most servers but I have 2 that I can't mute no matter what I try.

There's also an issue that there doesn't seem to be any way to mute @ mentions of roles you're assigned to. So if a server admin assigns you to a role and then mentions that role you'll get a notification even if server mute is on and suppress @everyone and @here is on.

I wonder if this is the reason I am still getting notifications on 2 servers. It sounds plausible, as they are game related servers, so quite possible I was assigned a role. I don't recall investigating this, although it is several months ago since I last tried solving mute issue.

This does not solve my mute issue, but great to know that this might be the cause! Thanks for this.

Yeah. You can mute @everyone and @username, but you cannot mute @role. It's really irritating in lots of gaming servers where they assign roles by game rank or something similar.

Isn't using a 3rd party client like that against the ToS and could get you banned?

The question is: is it detectable and do the devs care?

I've never used the browser tab but the desktop client you can server mute where you also have to select "suppress @everyone and @here" if you want a true mute besides @yourname

The desktop client had issues with FPS drop in games. You can disable Hardware Acceleration in the Appearance section and your FPS returns to normal. I guess you'd have to find the browser setting, maybe you can do it per tab?

I'm in about 20+ channels and memory on windows is 135MB

The issue with mute is that if you're assigned a roll and the role is @'d you're still notified. There's no way to suppress it. Combine that with servers where you need a role to access channels and you end up with unmutable notifications from a role you can't opt-out of.

My Discord is sitting at about half a gig and I'm in 12 or so servers.

Hah wow, mine actually went down to 105 when I just checked.

I did some brief testing and it looks like the usage is depending on your servers activity. If people are posting lots of gifs the memory goes up. I got up to 300 going to some of the communities I just follow, rather than actively participate in daily. When I went back to my "main server" where my close friends are (we dont gif much) it slowly droppped back down to ~110. I guess eventually once it releases the in memory fluff it will drop back down.

Does doing this help your memory usage? https://support.discordapp.com/hc/en-us/articles/206342858--...

I'll be honest and say I've never used roles so I'm sure you are right. That is unfortunate

I'm not a fanboy, but at least for me Discord in FireFox seems very well behaved.

It's been open in a tab for a week, on a fairly high-volume server (dozens of channels, thousands of users) and FireFox reports (about:memory) 150MB usage for that tab.

Your experience seems to mirror my Slack experience though, I have to kill that tab about every other day due to live leaks.

Why is it everyone outside of programmers (and even then) always picks chat services with the worst client software available?

IRC had issues but at least the clients were decent.

Discord has a wonderful client in my experience.

Sure people will rush to say the IRC clients of old opened in .02 nanoseconds after you thought about checking your channels, but that's not useful compared to the fact Discord out of the box has more functionality than an IRC client could ever hope to provide, and looks pleasing to the eye while doing that.

Programmers and non-programmers have very different ideas of what is "decent". Examples of things non-programmers want in a group chat app:

- persistent chat history

- mobile client

- a sane registration / nickname reservation method

Perhaps requests like those don't match your own priorities, but I don't think they're wrong.

> - persistent chat history

That's kind of misleading. "Server-side chat history" is more accurate.

IRC logs are more persistent. It's possible to go back and check them at any time. If I've read the messages, I know they've been logged, and I know they'll still be there.

Discord history, on the other hand, can be deleted from the servers at any time. Often when you go back to double check something that was written previously, it's not there any more.

Only if you run a bouncer or IRC client 24/7, which means you either pay for it or some device in your house will be running all the team. Not great for the average user.

Most channels have a bot running that logs it. If you really care to read through every message you can go read the log.

You can still put a web client with persistent chat history in front of IRC. TheLounge is one example [1] [2] and Convos is another. [3] [4]

[1] - https://thelounge.chat/

[2] - https://github.com/thelounge/thelounge

[3] - https://convos.by/

[4] - https://github.com/Nordaaker/convos

Setting those up isn't quite trivial for the non-programmer user and they have problems with some IRC servers (it's almost impossible to connect to EFnet via thelounge in my experience and convos had a variety of problems).

Agreed. On the upside, you need one technical friend that can set it up for many friends to use. For EFnet and several other networks, you need to get permission from NetOps/NetAdmins or an individual server operator if you don't need the fail-over resilience.

These types of arguments tickle me. Why isn't instagram just a shiny web frontend to a newsgroup?

I am not arguing, just providing alternate options. They are not for everyone.

FWIW, there are also shiny front-ends to NNTP. That would actually be a great way to have a threaded messaging system and attachments.

Well, the alternative at the time was using Skype.

Discord business model seems te be to sell games. Not sure if it's going to be a good fit for non-gamers in the future.

https://riot.im/ powered by Matrix also seems a good alternative. It's getting more stable every day.

Originally they only made money by selling a service called Discord Nitro. It allows you to upload larger files/share your screen in a higher resolution, use servers' emojis in any other server, use an animated avatar, and further customize your username. Since they added the store, they've also started giving games to Nitro members, doubled the price of Nitro, and offered an option without the free games at the original price.


Matrix is really nice. I hope that some of the TUI clients improve a bit, though. I absolutely loved the weechat plugin made in lua, but it'd often take several tries to connect. One day I couldn't connect at all, and there hasn't been github activity lately. It was the only client I found that let me actually reorder rooms and people manually. I really hate the constantly changing order that I can't seem to configure in Riot. Gomuks lacks a lot of good keybinds and stuff that weechat did right by default for being weechat. The emacs package matrix-client.el is alright but tricky to get going due to using quelpa, which none of my other stuff uses. I also have only used it graphically in emacs, so not sure how it is in non-graphical emacs. These little disappointments in the clients make me still prefer irc for a lot of things, but easily sharing images and such on matrix is pretty nice.

There is a new and much more actively maintained WeeChat plugin, take a look: https://matrix.org/docs/projects/client/weechat-matrix

<tinfoil> I always assumed they were selling user data. People talk about a lot of sensitive/private stuff on there for some reason, and they self-select into communities they're interested in. Also it looks like they're hiring a lot of data scientists[0], though that could be for other reasons. </tinfoil> [0] https://discordapp.com/jobs

I like Matrix, I run a homeserver, but they still have a long way to go until their feature set becomes as attractive as Discord's, and I feel like in certain areas they're not even trying.

check out https://sqwok.im, it's a new real-time discussion site not targeted at gamers, in beta

Slack has been very clear they are not a consumer service. They have no interest in being public social media, their market is businesses paying $$/user. Fair enough. But then Discord has deftly stepped into that void of Slack-for-consumers and it's working pretty well for them.

I've been a Discord fan since very early days. It's a great product and a good company.

One thing that really irritates me about Discord is that it has really crappy low-contrast dark & light themes. And it's not theme-able at all. At least slack's default light theme is high contrast and also slack is theme-able.

I use the browser version and the stylus browser extension to set the font to Roboto and make the text actually pass the chrome inspectors accessibility guidelines

> also slack is theme-able.

But no dark theme options, so not theme-able in any useful way.

I wish Discord had an actual usable light theme. What they have now is an abomination. They probably look at the stats and see nobody uses the light theme and think "not worth to fix". Of course nobody uses it... it's unusable.

Contrast and readability is so 2013. Get used to modern perfect design and stop living in the stone age!!1!1!

I think Discord is slowing eating away all other form of online communication as it can be used for such a variety of situations and their API makes it very customizable.

The main issue I see is the culture. Discord's community has quite an opposite culture as Slack (free time vs work time) for instance. Being able to have multiple Discord handles could solve that.

Even though I use it a lot for 1 on 1 convos it's definitely not eating that lunch (yet). And imo it won't as long as it remains less reliable for notifications and doesn't have things like last-online, quote replies and read receipts like messenger and WhatsApp.

I don't understand why read reciepts are important. People will respond when they feel like whether it says read or not. Just makes it more cumbersome to get around it when you're too busy to respond.

Read receipts being there simplify 1-on-1 conversations a lot. Nobody wants to admit it because they don't want to "sound creepy", but most people do use them to know whether or not the other party has read/received the message.

It avoids the whole "hey, did you get my text" thing and there's several social situations where knowing whether the other person has read your message (regardless of reply) is useful, so you don't end up calling them to do exactly that.

It's like quote replies, emoji, etc… none of these things are essential to 1-on-1 comm, but if there's a platform that has these features, it'll most likely win out over others.

Problem is, it's not reliable.

I might accidentally tap on notification and make it read when I'm eating but don't actually want to read it then or if the sender keeps bugging to read it when I know the message had arrived but want to read it later instead, it's not helping the conversation.

There is a feature suggestion I've been following and crossing my fingers to get implemented for having a different profile picture per server. You can already have a generic username and then nicknames per server so it would be nice to further separate your online presence.

Is there a reason why they don't just keep a fork their code and rebrand it as a "serious app" for corporate use and charge money for it? Discord has the best service for voice chat and screen sharing I've seen and I'd love to use it with clients instead of all the other weird apps I've had to use. The least painful so far has been Google Meet but even that one has its issues and likely an expirement date.

Because more often than not losing focus kills companies. The greed to do everything leads to doing nothing well.

I'll never understand why people continually fall into the proprietary closed source app trap for things as important and sensitive as voice and txt chat...

I have run a mumble/murmur server for years, but I had some life things happen and dropped it for a while and most of my online friends moved to discord and I see nothing but annoyance with it, not to mention privacy and security concerns for days.

Maybe because they don't want to worry about life things happening and you dropping it for a while? Most people don't have the knowledge, capability, and/or will to run their own chat server when they can just use Discord for free and not have to worry about downtime or managing the server hosting.

While me and my friends could run a Matrix or IRC server or whatever the new open source chat awesomeness is these days we don't really see the point when Discord does everything we want and more and doesn't require any management beyond setting up our guild settings, channels, and roles.

This basic problem can always be summed up as something like: "Extreme nerds who are almost completely divorced from the needs and skills of 95% of all computer users are BAFFLED by the fact Social Effects Are Real, and people do not know how to run their own servers. News at 11." and it's extremely predictable and always on-time.

Come talk to me in a year or two when it's found out discord was spying on users for the government and/or selling everyone's data to shady third parties, or being used as a backdoor on systems, and tell me I'd the tradeoff was worth it.

Of course I should have chosen my words more carefully, I understand child posters point about how technical things are hard, but I wasn't addressing a webboard of non-technical users... this is HN.

I only use Linux for many of the same reasons, and I openly acknowledge it's not as "easy" , but there is Morea to the products and services we use than just that, and I think things like the Snowden/Wikileaks revelations of these issues mean that we as techies and general trend leaders in that world need to set a better example on the security and privacy fronts.

It's a classic example of the network effect for social networking.

What do you think of Telegram, compared to Discord?

Telegram has one feature I miss in Discord: quote replies. It makes easier to follow conversations in a crowded channel. It is the most upvoted feature in the Discord feedback tool: https://support.discordapp.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/3600....

But Telegram misses a lot of things provided by Discord: multiple channels on the same server to organize conversations, reactions/likes, voice, the possibility to transfer ownership of an existing server.

Discord is a replacement for irc, telegram is a replacement for messenger/blogs. You can't really compare them, it's like matching oranges and apples.

I agree that Telegram is primarily a messaging app like WhatsApp or Messenger.

But its group feature has become really powerful, and can be used as an alternative to IRC (except for the fact that a "group" can't be divided in multiple channels).

Some Mozilla groups have been using Telegram for some time: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Telegram

I think part of the nature of Mozilla is that we end up using everything. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some groups using Discord, too. My team and related ones are still mostly on IRC. Officially, as employees we're all supposed to be using Slack...

Same thing at Red Hat. Most of engineering runs off IRC, most of consulting runs off of Rocket.chat, I hear sales and marketing uses slack, and the "official" company solution is Gchat.

And a half dozen other little enclaves.

I honestly don't understand why, especially on Hacker news, we do not push much more for privacy-oriented solutions. Moreover, with Matrix/Riot, or with XMPP/Conversations, viable alternatives exist, and if we all would put the energy to make these softwares better rather than putting it into proprietary solutions like the one described here, the open alternatives would already be much better than the proprietary ones!

Sure, as I've read in this thread, Discord is intended for the same kind of discussions that would happen in a public space, or in a group, not for the "truly private discussions",so "no need for all the privacy features "... except you do, precisely for these reasons!

I mean, Discord is privately-owned, a public space by its verynature is not. If I'm talking about anything beyond how nice is the weather, such as my political thoughts, or what I love, I don't want anybody (but possibly me) to be able to make a profit through it!

From the TOS:

By uploading, distributing, transmitting or otherwise using Your Content with the Service, you grant to us a perpetual, nonexclusive, transferable, royalty-free, sublicensable, and worldwide license to use, host, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display Your Content in connection with operating and providing the Service. The Company does not guarantee the accuracy, quality, or integrity of any user content posted.

They also have a ban against distributing or even talking about macro/autohotkey programs, and, of course, they can see every single message and piece of content you put on the service.

It's 20XX; why is there anything but harsh condemnation for services like this? Modern communication platforms should not be set up this way.

The first part of the TOS is standard, even something as simple as showing a thumbnail of a posted picture (which discord does) requires it.

AutoHotKey have their own relatively active Discord server, so obviously, you can talk about it. What is banned is the use of macros on the Discord client itself.

As for seeing every single message, then yes, certainly. That's how you get the entire conversation history when you first log into a server, search, previews, etc... Discord is not privacy oriented, it is a convenient platform, and great for semi-public conversations. It is not a replacement for Signal, and vice-versa.

Modern communication platforms don't have to be all privacy-oriented. Just like in real life, there are public and private places, with different expectations.

This is the most well-thought-out response in the thread. My initial knee-jerk is too extreme. Thank you for the sanity check.

And that was a mature response from you. Glad to see this exchange :D

Not only is the first part of the TOS sort of standard, its the decent version. It ends with the "in connection with the service". Many TOS just give a carte blanche permission for any reason at all. This one is at least the reason you expect: You upload or write content into this, and Discord can act like Discord with that content.

> Modern communication platforms don't have to be all privacy-oriented. Just like in real life, there are public and private places, with different expectations.

I wish more people understood this. Discord's primary design is large open public spaces; layers of encryption and e2e make no sense.

Well, it's not necessarily either/or. Discord could also include tools for private conversations. A lot of people started using as a replacement for Teamspeak, after all. I don't think it would get nearly as much initial traction if they were just a chat room platform.

Why are macros banned? What kind of stuff can you do with macros? Spam?

Discord is primarily "gamer" focused, so macros are often pointed out as a means of cheating or otherwise gaining unfair advantage. AutoHotkey (https://www.autohotkey.com/) could be used to chain a bunch of actions in a game together and perform some sort of difficult action with minimal effort, so that's discouraged.

But the rule is very odd. Most "gaming" focused mice/keyboards have software and buttons dedicated to performing macro functions, and they're present on major brands like Razer and Logitech equipment.

How would they be able to distribute your content (messages, images, etc) to other people if they didn't have the license to do so?

Every chat service and social media has this clause because they couldn't send your messages without it.


Please do your research before bringing out the pitchforks.

How would anyone be able to look at your house if they didn't own it?

No, the expansive licensing Discord demands here is not required to operate the service.

It absolutely is. You know who else has a license like this? hacker news. (https://www.ycombinator.com/legal/)

    By uploading any User Content you hereby grant and will grant Y Combinator and its affiliated companies a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty free, fully paid up, transferable, sublicensable, perpetual, irrevocable license to copy, display, upload, perform, distribute, store, modify and otherwise use your User Content for any Y Combinator-related purpose in any form, medium or technology now known or later developed. 
also microsoft, google, reddit, twitter, etc, etc, etc, etc

Hacker News is publicly viewable without an account. Totally different.

Discord tricks the user into using it as a private messaging platform. Its main draw, as I understand it, is the IRC channel clones ("Servers"), which can be public or private/invite-only. It's also got no privacy or security options for the direct person-to-person messages, which people use essentially as an SMS/iMessage/WhatsApp replacement. Encrypted chat at scale is hard, but this is a relatively new product and was built in an era where privacy concerns were well known. The benefits of encryption/privacy/security etc (and drawbacks from the lack of it) are clear.

I understand they need to be able to transmit the data, but they also clearly state that the developers of the product can look at your messages in cleartext. That's absolutely not required. How do you think Signal operates?

>Hacker News is publicly viewable without an account. Totally different.

What does that have to do with needing to acquire rights to redistribute your content?

>Discord tricks the user into using it as a private messaging platform.

Discord doesn't advertise security at all (they do mention keeping your IP secure in some support articles but that isn't advertising)

Beyond that, Discord exists to create big open public spaces. Why would you need encryption in a big open public space.

So if Y Combinator did not have those terms, I could put my own copyrighted work onto Hacker News and then sue Y Combinator? That doesn't sound right.

You probably wouldn't have a leg to stand on with that kind of lawsuit.

But when a company lets a lawyer write their TOS, they're gonna end up with a "better safe than sorry" version.

Those permissions are specifically granted "in connection with operating and providing the Service". I'm not a lawyer, but are you suggesting that they could do other things like steal your images to use in advertising and claim that it's "in connection with operating and providing the Service"?

In order to host your (automatically copyrighted) content on their server and display it to other people in your chats they need your permission, so you have to give it to them if you want to use Discord. Without it they would be infringing on your copyright by hosting your content on the service.

I'm not sure how else you expect it to work.

"Steal"? You gave them a license to do so.

Yes, they could use your images in their advertising, or publish a book of your images, or make a movie out of all your messages and videos, or anything else they wanted to do with, as they call it, "Your Content". That's what a perpetual, transferable, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable license to create derivative works is.

And no, all those rights are not required to operate Discord.

>you grant to us a perpetual, nonexclusive, transferable, royalty-free, sublicensable, and worldwide license to [snip] Your Content in connection with operating and providing the Service

So what you're saying is that when you grant someone the right to use your content for a specific purpose, you're actually granting them the right to do whatever the hell they want with it?

Again, not a lawyer, but "in connection with operating and providing the Service" reads like a legally important part of that sentence to me.

"Service" in this context is defined earlier in the document:

>the Discord application (the “App”) or the website located at https://discordapp.com (the "Site"), which are collectively referred to as the “Service,”

IMO you're reading this very creatively if you think that grants them a right to publish a book of your private messages. Rights to use your content are granted specifically "in connection with operating and providing the Service." A book of your messages is not in connection with operating/providing the Discord app or website.

Any service that does the things discord does and doesn't somehow obtain a license along those lines from their users is probably in trouble. Note that it is a non-exclusive license and only grants them the rights to do those things in connection with the providing the service.

99% of users don't care, it's a great product

I agree, but that's sad, and not the way things should be.

We should hold ourselves to a higher standard instead of blindly shuffling into the tar pits. Does that mean life is harder? Yes. But no one great ever took the easy way out.

There are alternatives, like Zulip


What? Here is Zulip’s license which is almost identical:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Kandra Labs (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, perform, display and distribute such content.

The ridiculous pitchforking in this thread is out of control.

That's not in any way a replacement for discord.

No voice, how is that an alternative?

Most users of heroin dont care that it is harming them, but that's a good thing right?

Poor analogy. Just because they can't break the addiction, doesn't mean they don't care. A lot of long-time smokers are very aware that it harms them, and they wish they had never started, they just can't break the habit. Find me a sizeable group of discord users who are addicted to it and are using it because of the powerful habit they wish they could break, despite them being aware of how much it hurts them.

I honestly found it very refreshing how explicit and upfront they were about their data collection. There are plenty of "free" products that try hard to hide the fact that they are doing it too; this time I felt like I was actually engaging in a fair transaction.

For a lot of my less tech-savvy friends, it has been a blessing too. Discord is incredibly easy to set up, the audio adapts without tweaking, and new chatrooms are just a couple clicks away. Really my only other option was Skype and that is seemingly much worse.

> They also have a ban against distributing or even talking about macro/autohotkey programs, and, of course, they can see every single message and piece of content you put on the service.

Woah. That's strange considering I've subscribed to the AHK Discord group for a while now. Maybe they're referring to the ban in the context around cheating in video games.

I came on to Discord before hearing about it from HN or other news source. I was invited to a "server" by members of my play-by-post RPG group. I had the impression it was a small and "rebellious" startup with a great product. Word of mouth is the best kind of growth. In a matter of weeks, I moved most of my chat to discord....though for chats with my brother (one of my closest confidants) we still run our own Mattermost server, which has honestly been great.

Does anyone know what dotcom partnerships and individual/influencer affiliate programs Discord has done?

For a while, I saw many subreddit mods pushing Discord in side bars and stickied posts, often with language that suggested it was an official Reddit counterpart to the sub.

I supposed it could be that Reddit management was choosing to siphon off its own user base and influence to Discord. But my suspicion was that it was more likely the action of one or more mods of the sub, and then question would be what was their motivation.

I'm a subreddit mod for a decent sized esports subreddit and we have an "official" discord for our sub. Our rational for this is it provides a good medium for real time reactions to games/matches that can be shorter and more like twitch chat without having to be actual twitch chat. We noticed too that once we created the discord there was an overall quality increase in the actual posts/comments on the subreddit because most of the less thorough stuff got posted to discord instead.

It also provides a good outlet for people looking to find others to game or hangout with that share at least a few similar interests.

There's an influencer program but it's more aimed at Lan parties and other events of that nature.

I suspect that the reason you see so many Discords for subreddits is it's free, and easy. I recall few subs having IRCs which the only other option that really compared, probably because of the barrier to entry for both the user and the admin.

Reddit did launch their own chat feature. No idea if anyone uses it, I sure as hell haven't.

But the reddit chat launched when a Discord channel was already established in all the major communities. And they tried to push it too fast, when it wasn't ready to production, like their official android/ios app.

Part of me wonders if community moderation had something to do with it. With Discord, people have to know where to find your server link, and can be denied access to various channels until they get past admin set verification rules. This makes it much harder for trolls or troublemakers to brigade a server compared to say, a subreddit, and makes it tricky for your enemies to go trawling through your chat history like on Reddit or what not. It really puts off the content scraping services you saw abusing social media sites a while back for clickbaity articles (like BuzzFeed, College Humour, etc), and shuts down attempts to turn niche communities into a moral panic in the mainstream media.

Of course, these aren't the only reasons. Obviously the sheer ease of setting up a Discord server had a major effect, as did the pseudononymity, the voice chat features, the extra bells and whistles compared to IRC and Skype and the share URLs among other things.

But I definitely feel the moderation may have had some effect, and may be partly why it seems to be replacing Reddit as the network of choice in gaming communities and what not.

maybe im just getting old but i cant really understand the runaway success of discord, it seems awfully similar to IRC to me

Here are a few things that make Discord nicer than IRC for ordinary (non-voice) chat:

1. You can start a new server right in the client by clicking a button.

2. Logs are saved server-side and synced across all your clients (phone, PC, etc).

3. You can upload images and videos to be hosted by Discord's servers. Media and links appear inline in the chat log.

4. No strange rituals involving NickServ or ChanServ.

5. Mobile notifications.

In addition to this you have integration with other gaming platforms like: Battle.net, Steam, Twitch and for example join a game directly from Discord.

6. You don't need to publicize your IP address by default.

IPs have been hidden on most IRC servers for years now.

Does discord even have the option to make you IP address public? I thought you only have the option of private.

>No strange rituals involving NickServ or ChanServ.

True but God help you if you ever lose your discord 2fa seed; you'll have to throw away that identity and start over. [1]

From their FAQ:

Note: If you do not have access to your backup codes, we are unable to remove 2FA and you will have to create a new account. Discord cannot remove 2FA or issue you new backup codes.

*1 https://support.discordapp.com/hc/en-us/articles/11500122107...

That actually sounds like a good thing though.

Agreed, this is exactly how 2FA should work. Allowing support staff to deactivate 2FA is a massive security weakness.

It's great until you discover that Google's migration tool doesn't port Google Authenticator data when you switch phones. Ask me how I know. :-)

You can recover 2FA if you're already signed in on any other device though. You just have to enter your password on the device you are signed in on.

Uh, no saying "any other device" is too sweeping of a generalization. You must be logged into a browser specifically: You cannot turn two factor off from the app.

Regarding 4.), only once which is your account creation which is valid across all discord servers

That depends on the server. You can set it to public, or a mix between the two. Or even a public channel, a registered channel, and a channel for people with 2FA.

The way I got into Discord was some open source project had a link on their GitHub page for collaboration, I clicked that, entered a name and within minutes I was helping out with some code. A cookie kept my temporary account alive.

I don’t remember any trolls or spammers or anything. I noticed there’s a setting to control the amount of filtering for your server. And I think there’s also a captcha the first time a temporary user joins.

not saying that in a negative way, and I agree that for someone who understands IRC, IRC is great!

But this comment is very similar to the infamous rsync comment on the Dropbox original Show HN post. Most people don't know IRC, are put off by it's raw (or lack of) design, etc. It's much easier to sell something like slack/discord than IRC.

I remember having so many engineers fighting against HipChat being too slow, and saying we should just use IRC. Yes, in a way it's true, it does everything we'd need, it's fast, can be self hosted etc... but Nancy from HR or Paul from finance would NOT want to figure out how it works.

The top comment on Dropbox's original announcement went like

> For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem. From Windows or Mac, this FTP account could be accessed through built-in software ... is it reasonable to expect to make money off of this?

He's probably right, it's not reasonable and dropbox is a shitty product. But the market has determined it's valuable, despite what we techies think.

I've never used HipChat but I always hated Slack. My boss would always delete my comments without telling me when he didn't like what I said.

IRC is great precisely because it filters out people you don’t want to talk to - such as HR.

voice is one of the killer features - simple, instant voice chat, just give someone a link and they're pretty much in. no mucking about with settings. in gamer circles that's huge, and the IRC functionality made it great for game guilds or group of friends for async messaging.

compare discord to say teamspeak or ventrilo before it, where you had to both set up the software and configure it, as well as rent or own a server for people to connect to, discord was a godsend

and miles better than skype

That's exactly why it's successful. It has the playful tone of the old IRC, ICQ, and 90s web chats that's totally missing from most modern platforms. Probably the most "social" of all communication offerings I've seen and used recently. It's designed to talk to people you don't necessarily know, as opposed to just leeching off your existing social connections from the real world.

I really hope they don't end up selling out to Microsoft/Google/Facebook or use their platform to do some form of political activism.

On the other hand, Discord seems like a good match for small businesses. Would be interested in seeing something offered on that end.

People were tired of getting DDoS'ed so they switched away from Skype/Teamspeak.

The nice UX makes it easy for everyone to use, and the community aspect is appealing.

IRC isn't very easy to use for the common person.

>The nice UX makes it easy for everyone to use

Maybe I'm just old and grumpy, but am I the only one who finds the UX to be atrocious? Everything seems to a nondescript icon that rarely represents what it's supposed to do, nearly everything is flat so it's hard to tell what you can actually click on and whats decoration. Everytime I use it feels like an exercise in mental gymnastics just to navigate it.

Have an example? Everything I click on has some action I can do.

I'm 40 and grew up on mIRC, Discord feels a natural evolution with all the new features.

I mean... 90% of the UI is just text. The only icons are for the server images and some minor ones like emojis in the text input. Have a specific example?

I agree, there is far less of a learning curve involved with Discord and I believe this helped them win over a younger demographic of users.

I also feel like they capitalised on something specific that gamers wanted (chat and voice calls with low latency). Skype call quality is very much hit or miss, and while Mumble is great not everyone has the expertise in setting up a server.

>IRC isn't very easy to use for the common person.

A common person can learn. Also the audience (mostly gamers) know how to do stuff with their computers.

In today's mobile world, IRC sucks. I've used IRC for years. Sending files is a pain in the ass due to everyone being behind NATs these days. People can flood servers with garbage. Names can be squatted and trolls can run free. Not so much with Discord.

It also doesn't require a bouncer just so you can go from mobile to PC to tablet without issue.

I recently looked into Discord since ~4yrs, and noticed the UI looks almost exactly like a copy of Slack (http://www.slack.com).

And both look like copies of mIRC with added features. And I'm sure mIRC copied their layout from someone else

Completely disagree.

This is just my personal opinion, but I (and my circle) have found Discord to have the worst UI of any mainstream application.

First, there's only a dark theme, which I find much more difficult to read than Slack's default light theme.

Every window (native client) is crammed full of widgets, making it very difficult for fresh users to figure out which button to click to invite people.

It's also constantly firing off unread notifications, adding more and more density to the UI. It makes it very difficult to instantly know where to look.

As another example, I just fired up the desktop client and created a random server - and now I literally have no idea how to delete or disconnect from it.

I'm not a fan of Slack for other reasons, but its UI is far, far superior to Discord.

It's the community. I joined a discord server a few months ago to get support from some product (I can't remember what), and once I started using it I realized there are vibrant communities for all of my hobbies and interests. I now have a bunch of new friends that are into building mechanical keyboards that live in the same city. I would never have met them if I hadn't accidentally stumbled onto Discord.

One thing I really appreciate about both Discord and Slack are the ability to insert newlines into messages to make them easier to read.

It is popular exactly because it is similar to irc. Original IRC was great but despite all my love it did not age well.

Apart from the (more than obvious) technical feats, they've raised a lot of money and can afford to offer all of their services, some of them a bit expensive, for free. If they can't find a way to monetise, though, they'll be in trouble.

Had TeamSpeak or Mumble been able to offer hosted services for free, maybe Discord wouldn't have existed.

They have pushed monetization recently. Discord Nitro went from custom id, animated avatar and all emotes of all your servers everywhere to a game subscription service (obviously while raising the price)

There is still the Nitro classic with just the extra account features, the game subscription is an extra piece if you want it.

I looked at the games when they launched and they all were indie rubbish, so what can I tell you.

Besides a bunch of lootbox stuff for the kiddie shooters, there is Civ IV, XCOM:EU, Bioshock 1&2, Metro 2033 Redux, Project Highrise, Metro Last Light Redux, OOTP18, Tyranny, and so on.

Most of those are not for me, but Indie rubbish seems a bit off.

My group of friends migrated from Messenger to Discord a few days ago, we are very pleased. Here's a list of what I love the most:

* When a friend arrived in the evening and the others had been talking about random things all day long, the friend was often submerged by the amount of fluff to read. Discord solves this in two ways: 1) the different channels allow us to keep discussions tidy, we have a channel for random discussion, one for our evening plans, one for future holidays, one for music... 2) we can pin (not sure of the name in English) important messages, so the friends arriving later only have to read those.

* The desktop application feels light-weight and fast, even on my weak chromebook. Compared to the memory hog that was Messenger in the browser, it's very pleasant.

* Many fun functionalities such as custom emojis. The emoji panel that opens when you type a colon makes it easier to find the reaction you want to send. I'm aware many on HN don't see the point of emojis, but I find them really fun and useful.

* Bots. Good luck having a bot in a Messenger discussion, with Discord it's trivial.

* The audio discussions are very easy to use and efficient. I love the push to talk mode.

* Muting is fine-grained. You can mute one channel, an entire server,...

* The reactions system makes it trivial to very spontaneously start a little poll. "Where do you guys want to eat? [Letter A emoji] restaurant x [Letter B emoji] restaurant y", and then you react to your own message with both emojis. Your friends just have to click one of the reactions to add theirs, so the little numbers next to each reaction act like a poll counter.

* You can edit your own messages, with no time limit AFAIK. Very convenient, especially with the up arrow which automatically edits your last message.

* Roles are precise and easy to use. We have a role for the core group of friends, with our private channels.

A few drawbacks :

* No quote responses, like Whatsapp has for example

* No attachments larger than 8 MB, which makes it impossible to send even a small video you've shot with your recent phone (unless you decrease the film resolution in your phone's settings I guess)

* I've had a few issues with the Android client, such as receiving a notification for a message, opening the app and the message isn't there. No way to force a refresh, so I have to kill the app and open it again. Might have been caused by battery saving mode, not sure.

* Accessing private messages is not very intuitive. Why do you have to go to the main screen first? I don't have many servers, so I'd like to be able to add my closest friends in the server list on the left of the screen, to access our discussions in one click or press.

* Some clever things are part of the client instead of the server, which would be fine if it were consistent between clients, which it's not. I'm thinking of the +:reaction_here: shortcut to quickly add a reaction to the last message in the discussion. It doesn't work with the Android client.

Nice! What are the advantages you see with Discord over Slack for the same purpose (if any)? I figured Slack's been around longer and offers most of these things so I was curious what makes people use Discord over it.

FWIW I use both happily.

I've almost never used Slack, but isn't it more institution-oriented? Can you use it for free with a bunch of friends?

I'd be interested in knowing what you prefer in both, since you're using both

Also, have you ever tried a free software, decentralized alternative?

I'm not who you were talking to, but while Slack was definitely intended for use by businesses, you can create a Slack "team" for free (or at least, that's what I remember). There are limits around free Slack (finite chat history) but it is possible.

> Also, have you ever tried a free software, decentralized alternative?

Which are you thinking of?

I've used Riot before, to see what Matrix was all about. The Riot client was kind of sluggish.

Anyways, I suspect the real reason people use things like Slack and Discord is not because it's the best tool for the job but because it's free for them to make a community. Typically, the person who administrates the server/team/community also has to pay a monthly subscription fee or pay to host it on a VPS, so it's only natural that people are flocking to a service which offers to let you do that for free.

When did you last try Riot? Version 1.0 was released last month, and in general Riot performance has improved a lot in the last ~year.

One of the complaints I've had is simply that Slack limits the viewable/searchable chat history without paying

> No attachments larger than 8 MB

The limit goes up to 50MB if you pay for nitro or nitro classic

Bit of a submarine article, or at least it reads like one.

easy, skype became garbage.

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