Screenshot of a newly-created Discord server in 2018
(Originally Hammer & Chisel, Inc.)
|Initial release||May 13, 2015|
74659 / January 16, 2021
|Available in||27 languages|
|Type||VoIP communications, instant messaging, videoconferences, content delivery, and social media|
Discord is an American VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities. Users communicate with voice calls, video calls, text messaging, media and files in private chats or as part of communities called "servers." Servers are a collection of persistent chat rooms and voice chat channels. Discord runs on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, iPadOS, Linux, and in web browsers. As of July 21, 2019[update], there are over 250 million users of the software.
The concept of Discord came from Jason Citron, who had founded OpenFeint, a social gaming platform for mobile games. He sold OpenFeint to GREE in 2011 for US$104 million, which he used to found Hammer & Chisel, a game development studio, in 2012. 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.
According to Citron, during the development process, he 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. This led developers to develop a chat service with a focus on user friendliness with minimal impact to performance.
Discord was publicly released in May 2015 under the domain name discordapp.com. According to Citron, they made no specific moves to target any specific audience, but subreddits were replacing their IRC links with Discord links. Discord became widely used by esports and LAN tournament gamers. The company benefited from relationships with Twitch streamers and subreddit communities for Diablo and World of Warcraft.
In January 2016, Discord raised an additional US$20 million in funding including an investment from WarnerMedia. In 2019, WarnerMedia Investment Group sold its share as it was shut down following AT&T's acquisition of WarnerMedia.
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.
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.
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 COVID-19 pandemic, which also included the introduction of server templates.
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.
Discord is built to create and manage private and public communities. It gives users access to tools focused around communication services like voice and video calls, persistent chat rooms, and integrations with other gamer-focused services along with the general ability to send direct messages and create personal groups. Although at first, Discord services seem directed towards only gamers, in recent years, it has brought several new updates, making it more useful for the general population.
Discord communities are organized into discrete collections of channels called servers. Users can create servers for free, manage their public visibility and create both channels and channel categories up to 250.
Starting October 2017, Discord allows game developers and publishers to verify their servers. Verified servers, like verified accounts on social media sites, have badges to mark them as official communities. A verified server is moderated by its developer's or publisher's own moderation team. Verification was later extended in February 2018 to include esports teams and musical artists.
By the end of 2017, about 450 servers were verified.
Members can help servers obtain perks in 3 levels via the "Server Boost" feature, which unlocks higher quality voice channels, more emoji slots, and other perks. Users can buy boosts for servers for $4.99 a month. "Discord Nitro" subscribers get two boosts, and 30% off boosts.
Channels may be either used for voice chat and streaming or for instant messaging and file sharing. The visibility and access to channels can be customized to limit access from certain users, for example, marking a channel "NSFW" (Not Safe For Work) requires that first-time viewers confirm they are over 18 years old and willing to see such content.
Direct messages in Discord work just like in any other communication platform. They allow people to text, share files, live stream and call others privately outside of servers. An added feature in Discord direct messages is the ability to create message groups of up to 10 users. This acts similar to a server's text channel but it comes with one major difference i.e. You can initiate a call simultaneously for all the members in a direct message group (in servers, people can only join voice channels but cannot be called into)
Users register for Discord with an email address and must create a username. To allow multiple users to use the same username, they are assigned a four-digit number called a "discriminator", prefixed with "#", which is added to the end of their username.
Both at the server and the user level, Discord allows users to connect these to their Twitch or other gaming service account.
Users can assign a profile picture and subscribers for Discord Nitro, part of Discord's monetization plan, can use animated profile pictures.
Video calls and streaming
In August 2019, this was expanded with live streaming channels in servers. A user can share their screen if Discord has detected they are playing a game and others in that channel can join the channel to watch the stream. 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.
In August 2018, Discord launched a games storefront beta, allowing users to purchase a curated set of games through the service. 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. 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%.
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.
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.
In December 2017, Discord added a software development kit that allows developers to integrate their games with the service, called "rich presence". This integration is commonly used to allow players to join each other's games through Discord or to display information about a player's game progression in their Discord profile. By the end of 2017, about 20 servers were using the "rich presence" features.
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. They are instead database entities in Discord's servers.
The desktop, web, and mobile apps all use React, using React Native on iOS/iPadOS and Android. The desktop client is built on the Electron framework using web technologies, which allows it to be multi-platform and operate as an installed application on personal computers.
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. Support for calls between two or more users was added in an update on July 28, 2016.
The software is supported by eleven data centers around the world to keep latency with clients low.
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. The developers have stated that while they will look for ways to monetize the software, it will never lose its core features.
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 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. 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.
Discord began testing digital stickers on its platform in October 2020 for users in Canada. Most stickers cost between US$1.50 and US$2.25 and are part of Discord's monetization strategy. Discord Nitro subscribers received a free "What's Up Wumpus" sticker pack focused on Discord's mascot, Wumpus.
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. By December 2016, the company reported it had 25 million users worldwide. By the end of 2017, the service had drawn nearly 90 million users, with roughly 1.5 million new users each week. With the service's third anniversary, Discord stated that it had 130 million unique registered users. 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.
In May 2016, one year after the software's release, Tom Marks, writing for PC Gamer, described Discord as the best VoIP service available. Lifehacker has praised Discord's interface, ease of use, and platform compatibility.
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. By June 2020, the company reported it had 100 million active users each month.
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. Discord has stated that it has plans to implement changes that would "rid the platform of the issue".
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 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.
Discord gained popularity with the alt-right due to the pseudonymity and privacy offered by Discord's service. 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". In early 2017, CEO Jason Citron stated Discord was aware of these groups and their servers. 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.
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. Discord responded by closing servers that supported the alt-right and far-right, and banning users who had participated. Discord's executives condemned "white supremacy" and "neo-Nazism", and said that these groups "are not welcome on Discord". Discord has worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center to identify hateful groups using Discord and ban those groups from the service. 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.
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 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.
In July 2018, Discord updated its terms of service to ban drawn pornography with underage subjects. A social media movement[who?] subsequently criticized Discord for selectively allowing "cub" content, or underage pornographic furry artwork, under the same guidelines. Discord moderation staff held that "cub porn" was separate from lolicon and shotacon, being "allowable as long as it is tagged properly." 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.
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.
In January 2021, two days after the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, Discord deleted the pro-Donald Trump server "The Donald", "due to its overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence, plan an armed insurrection in the United States, and spread harmful misinformation related to 2020 U.S. election fraud", while denying that the server had any direct connection to the attack on the Capitol building. The server had been used by former members of the r/The_Donald subreddit, which Reddit had deleted several months previously. The server had previously been forced by Discord to delete all channels until the election was over.
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