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Discord (software)

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Discord
Logo for Discord, depicting an icon resembling a game controller inside a speech bubble
Screenshot depicting Discord's desktop client for Windows, viewing a freshly-created server on a freshly-created account.
Screenshot of a newly-created Discord server in 2018
Developer(s)Discord Inc.
(Originally Hammer And Chisel, Inc.)
Initial releaseMay 13, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-05-13)
Stable release
63700 / July 10, 2020; 28 days ago (2020-07-10)
Preview release
58505 / April 19, 2020; 3 months ago (2020-04-19)
Written in
Operating system
Available in27 languages
List of languages
English (UK/US), Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese
TypeVoIP communications, instant messaging, Videoconferences,[3] content delivery, and social media
LicenseProprietary[4]
Alexa rankDecrease 185 (Global, July 2020)[5]
Websitediscord.com

Discord is a proprietary freeware instant messaging and VoIP application and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities ranging from gamers to education and businesses. Discord specializes in text, image, video and audio communication between users in a chat channel. Discord runs on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and in web browsers. As of 21 July 2019, there are over 250 million users of the software.[6]

History

The concept of Discord came from Jason Citron, who had founded OpenFeint, a social gaming platform for mobile games. He eventually sold OpenFeint to GREE in 2011 for US$104 million,[7] which he used to found Hammer & Chisel, a game development studio, in 2012.[8] Their first product was Fates Forever, released in 2014, which Citron anticipated to be the first MOBA game on mobile platforms, but it did not become commercially successful. However, during the development process, Citron noticed how difficult it was for his team to work out tactics in games like Final Fantasy XIV and League of Legends using available voice over IP (VoIP) software. He found that some VoIP options required players to type in IP addresses just to connect, while others were resource-heavy and had known security problems. This led the developers to develop a chat service that was much friendlier to use and based on more modern technology.[9]

To develop Discord, Hammer & Chisel gained additional funding from YouWeb's 9+ incubator, which had also funded the startup of Hammer & Chisel, and from Benchmark capital and Tencent.[8][10]

Discord was publicly released in May 2015 under the domain name discordapp.com.[11] According to Citron, the only area that they pushed Discord into was for the Reddit communities, finding that many subreddit forums were replacing IRC servers with Discord ones.[12] Discord became popular among esports and LAN tournament gamers, and other Twitch streamers.[13]

The company raised an additional US$20 million in funding for the software in January 2016.[14] This included an investment from American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate WarnerMedia. In 2019 they sold their share after WarnerMedia Investment Group was shut down following the AT&T acquisition.[15][16]

In December 2018 the company announced it raised $150 million in funding at a $2 billion valuation. The round was led by Greenoaks Capital with participation from Firstmark, Tencent, IVP, Index Ventures and Technology Opportunity Partners.[17]

In March 2020, Discord changed its motto from "Chat for Gamers" to "Chat for Communities and Friends". This was part of their response to an increase of users as a result of the 2019-20 COVID-19 outbreak, which also included the introduction of server templates.[18][19]

In April 2020, Discord's Twitter username was changed from @discordapp to @discord.[20] Later in May 2020, Discord changed its primary domain from discordapp.com to discord.com.[21]

Starting in June 2020, Discord announced it was shifting focus away from video gaming specificity to a more all-purpose communication and chat client for all functions, revealing its new slogan "Your place to talk" and a revised website. Among other planned changes would be to reduce the number of gaming in-jokes it uses within the client, improving the user onboarding experience, and increasing server capacity and reliability. The company announced it had received an additional US$100 million in investments to help with these changes.[22]

Software

Discord uses the metaphors of servers and channels similar to Internet Relay Chat even though these servers do not map to traditional hardware or virtual servers due to its distributed nature.[1] A user can create a server on Discord, managing its public visibility and access, and create one or more channels within this service. Within a server, depending on access controls, users can create channels within a category framework, with the visibility and access on the channels also customizable to the server. One such customization is the ability to mark channels "NSFW" (Not safe for work), which forces first-time channel viewers to confirm that they are over 18 and willing to see such content. In addition to normal text-based channels, Discord servers can create voice-chat channels.

Jason Citron, Discord Co-Founder and CEO, at TechCrunch Disrupt 2018

Every Discord user has a unique four-digit "discriminator", shown as a four-digit number, prefixed with "#", after their username. This allows for multiple users to have the same username and for users to find friends easily.[23]

Both at the server and the user level, Discord allows users to connect these to their Twitch or other gaming service account. These integrations provide unique messaging tools within the app: for example, Discord can determine the game a user is presently playing on Steam if they have connected their account.

The Discord client is built on the Electron framework using web technologies,[24] which allows it to be multi-platform and operate on the web and as an installed application on personal computers. The software is supported by eleven data centers around the world to keep latency with clients low.[25] All versions of the client support the same core feature set; screen sharing with desktop audio is Windows exclusive, as is downloading and playing games from the Discord Game Store. Discord is specifically designed for use while gaming, as it includes features such as low-latency, free voice chat servers for users and dedicated server infrastructure. Discord's developers also added video calling and screen sharing in 2017.[11] Support for calls between two or more users was added in an update on July 28, 2016. In December 2016, the company introduced its GameBridge API, which allows game developers to directly integrate with Discord within games.[26] The Git repository documentation for the Discord API is hosted on GitHub.

Discord provides partial support for rich text via the Markdown syntax.[27] Discord uses the Opus audio format, which is low-latency and designed to compress speech.[28]

While the software itself comes at no cost, the developers investigated ways to monetize it, with potential options including paid customization options such as emoji or stickers.[10] In January 2017, the first paid subscription and features were released with "Discord Nitro Classic" (originally released as "Discord Nitro"). For a monthly subscription fee of $4.99, users can get an animated avatar, use custom and/or animated[29] emojis across all servers (non-nitro users can only use custom emoji on the server they were added to), an increased maximum file size on file uploads (from 8 MB to 50 MB), the ability to screen share in higher resolutions, the ability to choose their own discriminator (from #0001 to #9999) and a unique profile badge.[30] In October 2018, "Discord Nitro" was renamed "Discord Nitro Classic" with the introduction of the new "Discord Nitro", which cost $9.99 and included access to free games through the Discord game store. Monthly subscribers of "Discord Nitro Classic" at the time of the introduction of the Discord games store were gifted with "Discord Nitro", lasting until January 1, 2020, and yearly subscribers of "Discord Nitro Classic" were gifted with "Discord Nitro" until January 1, 2021.[31]

Users on Discord can improve the quality of the servers they reside in via the "Server Boost" feature, which improves quality of audio channels, streaming channels, number of emoji slots and other perks in 3 levels. Users can buy boosts to support the servers they choose, for a monthly amount. Possession of "Discord Nitro" gives a user two extra boosts to use on any server they like.[32]

The developers have stated that while they will look for ways to monetize the software, it will never lose its core features.[28]

Video calling and screen sharing features were added to Discord, first for a small test base in August 2017 and later for all users in October 2017.[33] While these features mimic live streaming capabilities of platforms like Twitch, the company does not plan to compete with these services, believing that these features are best used by small groups.[34]

In October 2017, Discord offered server verification to game developers, publishers, and content creators, allowing them to display their server's "official" status with a "verified checkmark" after confirming their identity with the Discord team. Developers and publishers with verified servers can use data from Discord to create a "rich presence" within their games, allowing players to connect their game profile to their Discord profile. By the end of 2017, about 450 servers were verified, with about 20 servers using the "rich presence" features.[34][35]

Discord also provides tools for users to create their own Internet bots.[36] There are tools such as discord.js[37] that allow bot developers to interact with the Discord API to control their bot.

Microsoft announced in April 2018 that it will provide Discord support for Xbox Live users, allowing them to link their Discord and Xbox Live accounts so that they can connect with their Xbox Live friends list through Discord.[38]

Digital distribution

In August 2018, Discord launched a games storefront beta, allowing users to purchase a curated set of games through the service.[39] This will include a "First on Discord" featured set of games that their developers attest to Discord's help in getting launched, giving these games 90 days of exclusivity on the Discord marketplace. Discord Nitro subscribers will also gain access to a rotating set of games as part of their subscription, with the price of Nitro being bumped from $4.99 to $9.99 a month.[31][40] A cheaper service called 'Nitro Classic' was also released that has the same perks as Nitro but does not include the free games.

Following the launch of the Epic Games Store, which challenged Valve's Steam storefront by only taking a 12% cut of game revenue, Discord announced in December 2018 that it would reduce its own revenue cut to 10%.[41]

To further support developers, starting in March 2019 Discord gave the ability for developers and publishers that ran their own servers to offer their games through a dedicated store channel on their server, with Discord managing the payment processing and distribution. This can be used, for example, to give select users access to alpha- and beta-builds of a game in progress as an early access alternative.[42]

In September 2019, Discord announced that it was ending its free game service in October 2019 as they found too few people were playing the games offered. Discord's digital storefront remains operational.[43]

Reception

By January 2016, Hammer & Chisel reported that Discord had been used by 3 million people, with growth of 1 million per month, reaching 11 million users in July that year.[14][44] By December 2016, the company reported it had 25 million users worldwide.[26] By the end of 2017, the service had drawn nearly 90 million users, with roughly 1.5 million new users each week.[45] With the service's third anniversary, Discord stated that it had 130 million unique registered users.[46][47] The company observed that while the bulk of its servers are used for gaming-related purposes, a small number have been created by users for non-gaming activities, like stock trading, fantasy football, and other shared interest groups.[34]

In May 2016, one year after the software's release, Tom Marks, writing for PC Gamer, described Discord as the best VoIP service available.[11] Lifehacker has praised Discord's interface, ease of use, and platform compatibility.[48]

In May 2019, Discord reported it had at least 250 million registered users across its web and mobile platforms. It was used by 56 million people every month, sending a total of 25 billion messages per month.[49] By June 2020, the company reported it had 100 million active users each month.[22]

Disruptive use

Discord has had problems with hostile behavior and abuse within chats, with some communities of chat servers being "raided" (the taking over of a server by a large number of users) by other communities. This includes flooding with controversial topics related to race, religion, politics, and pornography.[50] Discord has stated that it has plans to implement changes that would "rid the platform of the issue".[51]

To better protect its users and its services since these events, Discord has implemented a trust and safety team that is on call around the clock to monitor the servers and respond to reports. This includes dealing with user harassment, servers that violate Discord's terms of service, and protecting servers from "raiding" and spamming by malicious users or bots. While they do not directly monitor messages, the trust and safety team can determine malicious activity from service use patterns and/or user-generated reports[52] and take appropriate steps, including more detailed investigation, to deal with the matter. The service plans to expand this team as they continue to gain new users.[34][45]

Controversial content

Discord gained popularity with the alt-right due to the client's supporting anonymity and privacy. Analyst Keegan Hankes from the Southern Poverty Law Center said "It's pretty unavoidable to be a leader in this [alt-right] movement without participating in Discord".[53][54] In early 2017, CEO Jason Citron stated Discord was aware of these groups and their servers.[55] Citron stated that servers found to be engaged in illegal activities or violations of the terms of service would be shut down, but would not disclose any examples.[56]

Following the violent events that occurred during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, it was found that Discord had been used to plan and organize the white nationalist rally. This included participation by Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin, high-level figures in the movement.[53] Discord responded by closing servers that supported the alt-right and far-right, and banning users who had participated.[57] Discord's executives condemned "white supremacy" and "neo-Nazism", and said that these groups "are not welcome on Discord".[53] Discord has worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center to identify hateful groups using Discord and ban those groups from the service.[58] Since then, several neo-Nazi and alt-right servers have been shut down by Discord, including those operated by neo-Nazi terrorist group Atomwaffen Division, Nordic Resistance Movement, Iron March, and European Domas.[59]

In January 2018, The Daily Beast reported that it found several Discord servers that were specifically engaged in distributing revenge porn and facilitating real-world harassment of the victims of these images and videos. Such actions are against Discord's terms of service and Discord has shut down servers and banned users identified from these servers, but the ease of creating new accounts and servers allows such servers to continue to proliferate.[60]

In July 2018, Discord updated its terms of service to ban drawn pornography with underaged subjects.[61] A social media movement subsequently criticized Discord for selectively allowing "cub" content, or underaged pornographic furry artwork, under the same guidelines.[62] Discord moderators held that "cub porn" was separate from lolicon and shotacon, being "allowable as long as it is tagged properly."[61] After numerous complaints from the community, Discord amended its community guidelines in February 2019 to include "non-humanoid animals and mythological creatures as long as they appear to be underage" in its list of disallowed categories, in addition to announcing periodic transparency reports to better communicate with users.[63]

In March 2019, the media collective Unicorn Riot published the contents of a Discord server used by several members of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa who were also members of the United States Armed Forces.[64]

See also

Notes

1.^ Developer documentation refers to servers as "guilds".[65]

References

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Further reading

External links