Among gamers, the hip way to chat with friends is not via Skype, Slack or TeamSpeak, but Discord, a relatively new messaging app that’s starting to surge in popularity.
Discord was specifically designed to serve the gaming community. The app, which offers text messaging and voice and video calling, allows gamers to communicate and strategize with friends mid-game. But it’s lightweight and streamlined, so it won’t fill up their computers’ hard drives or bog down their processors.
The app has benefitted from the boom in online, team-based video games such as Fortnite Battle Royale, Overwatch, and League of Legends. But it now now hosts hundreds of thousands of online communities. While many are focused on gaming, you’ll find ones dedicated to other interests as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about Discord:
Discord has started to take off with gamers.
Discord was launched in 2015, but its popularity exploded in the last year, particularly among gamers and other communities that primarily meet online. It now has 19 million daily users, up from 8.9 million at this time last year, according to the company’s blog.
Just about anyone can sign up and use it — and it’s free.
Anyone over the age of 13 can download and use Discord. It’s available for PCs, Macs and mobile devices. Its developers have made clear the core features of Discord will always be available for free.
However, the company also offers a $4.99 a month subscription version of the app that includes features such as animated avatars, custom emoji, and higher quality screen sharing. It also allows you to upload larger files.
Developers have focused on making the app safe — and weeding out hate groups.
The messaging app got some bad publicity last year, when it was reported that many alt-right; “incel,” or male supremacist; and other hate groups were using it to meet, talk, and plan real-life gatherings, particularly ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. The app allows users to chat anonymously and privately, which helped attract the groups.
Discord’s developers have since banned many of those hate groups. But identifying and ousting them can be like playing a game of whack-a-mole; even after they’re banned, many come back in other places.
Still, in general, Discord is safe. No one can join a channel except by invitation, and users have to choose to join them. So no one can make you view or post content you’re not interested in.
Discord also offers you the ability to block content that’s unsuitable for work and to disconnect from servers at any time. You can easily mute or block individual users and prevent anyone you don’t know from adding you as a friend.
Even so, such features won’t necessarily prevent all harassment or bullying within particular text or voice channels.
For parents who are concerned about their teens using Discord to chat with friends, I recommend the same amount of caution you would have with social-media sites such as Twitter or Reddit. I suggest you read Discord’s Community Guidelines and the Parent’s Guide to Discord, written by one of the service’s developers.