Discord is a proprietary freeware VoIP application and digital distribution platform designed for video gaming communities, that 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 14 March 2019[update], there are over 250 million unique users of the software.
Screenshot of a newly-created Discord server
(Originally Hammer And Chisel)
|Initial release||May 13, 2015|
March 29, 2019 / March 29, 2019
0.0.203 / February 22, 2018
|Operating system||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Web browsers|
|Available in||27 languages|
|Type||VoIP communications, instant messaging, Videoconferences, content delivery, and social media|
|Alexa rank||128 (March 2019[update])|
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, which he used to found Hammer & Chisel, a game development studio, in 2012. Their original product was Fates Forever, released in 2014, which Citron anticipated to be the first MOBA game on mobile platforms, but it was not commercially successful due to low popularity. However, during the development process, Citron noted the difficulties that his team had when trying to play other representative games like Final Fantasy XIV and League of Legends to work out gameplay concepts, specifically highlighting problems of current voice over IP (VoIP) options that were available. Some VoIP options required players to share various IP addresses just to connect, while other services like Skype or TeamSpeak were resource-heavy and had known security problems. This led the developers towards developing a chat service that was much friendlier to use based on more modern technology.
Discord was publicly released in May 2015. 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. Discord became popular through eSports and LAN tournament gamers and through other Twitch.tv streamers.
The company raised an additional US$20 million in funding for the software in January 2016. American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate WarnerMedia has invested in 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.
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. 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.
Every Discord user has a unique four-digit personal identification number discriminator, after a "#" after their username. This allows for multiple users to have the same username and for users to find friends easily.
Both at the server and the user level, Discord allows users to connect these to their Twitch.tv 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, 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. All versions of the client support the same feature set (Excluding screen sharing with desktop audio, and downloading and playing games from the Discord Game Store are Windows exclusive). Discord is specifically designed for use while gaming, as it includes features such as low-latency, free voice chat servers for users and a dedicated server infrastructure. Discord's developers also added video calling and screen sharing in 2017. 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. The Git repository documentation for the Discord API is hosted on GitHub.
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. In January 2017, the first paid subscription and features were released with 'Discord Nitro Classic' [formerly just '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 personal identification number (from #0001 to #9999) and a unique profile badge, In October 2018, the formerly 'Discord Nitro' was renamed 'Discord Nitro Classic', and the new 'Discord Nitro' 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 have been 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 The developers have claimed that while they will look for ways to monetize the software, it will never lose its core features.
Video calling and screen sharing feature was added to Discord, first over a small test base in August 2017 and for all users in October 2017. While these features mimic live streaming capabilities of platforms like Twitch.tv, the company does not plan to compete with these services, believing that these features are best used by small groups.
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.
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 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 whom their developers attest to Discord's help in getting them 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 doesn't 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.
By January 2016, Hammer & Chisel claimed 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 their 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.
Discord has had problems with hostile behaviour 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 they have 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 to protect 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 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 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". 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 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.
In July 2018, Discord updated its terms of service to ban drawn pornography with underaged subjects. A social media movement subsequently criticized Discord for selectively allowing "cub" content, or underaged pornographic furry artwork, under the same guidelines. Discord moderators held that "cub porn" was separate from lolicon and shotacon, being "allowable as long as it is tagged properly." In February 2019, Discord amended its community guidelines 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.
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