The State of Discord in 2022: Gaming Takes Over Forums
We are in the golden age of Discord. Tens of millions of people use it every day, and by all indications that number is growing. What started as a way to have a good free voice chat with friends and finally get rid of Skype has become an entire generation’s destination for messaging, video calls, streaming, file sharing and communities under the same roof.
Discord is no longer just an app for gamers. The company wants communities of all types to organize under its banner and turn into a big pot of social networking features. Now that Discord is a better Skype, it also wants to be a better Zoom, a better Instagram, and a better Twitter. As Discord gets crowded, I wonder if it can remain the cool, accessible, and mostly private social network that all my friends hang out on. Is it done getting features that matter to gamers, and will what it already does well still be free? Let’s take a look at where Discord is in 2022 and where it could go.
In 2022, Discord is still very good
The cool thing about Discord is that in 2022 it’s still great. I use it for hours every day to hang out with friends. It’s become a big part of my life, so much so that it’s still a little too good to be true. It’s still absurd how much Discord lets you do just by creating a free account:
- Chat over high-quality, low-latency voice channels for unlimited time
- Send instant messages to friends or groups of friends
- Stream HD video capture from your computer or phone, also low latency and unlimited
- Watch multiple streams at once with individual volume sliders
- Organize servers with communities of thousands
- Talk in group video calls
- Share small files with friends
- Add bots to servers that add new features, like a party radio
Who uses Discord in 2022?
In May 2021, Discord has more 150 million users and 19 million active servers per week. These numbers have likely increased significantly over the past year. In 2020, Discord began a pivot to market Discord as a platform for any community, not just games. According to Discord, 70% active users state that they use the Service primarily for non-gaming purposes or for both gaming and other purposes.
In 2021, Discord invaded internet forums
If you’re a Discord user who spends a lot of time chatting in large server text channels, 2021 has been a pretty good year for updates. Discord introduced threads, which allow users to post individual messages in organized topics without having to create a dedicated text channel. Discord also greatly expanded the moderation tools with expanded server roles, more automation, easier bot integration, and a timeout feature that I exclusively used to annoy my friends.
Discord has also made some progress with profiles. Nitro members can now set a custom banner and choose different banners, avatars, and bios for each server they are on. You can make your avatar a gif, which is pretty cool. Emojis also got a bit more sophisticated, and Nitro members got access to larger “sticker” emojis that you can create from custom images.
This push for organized conversation and new ways to personalize messages makes Discord feel like it’s embracing the topical format of an internet forum, a format that has diminished in part due to Discord’s ubiquity.
Meanwhile, voice chat and streaming are at a standstill
Profiles and chats are neat and all, but if you’re one of the millions of users who primarily use Discord to chat with friends and stream whatever game you’re playing, the service hasn’t gotten much better improved over the past two years. In some cases, it got worse.
As much as I love streaming games on Discord, the experience of setting up a Go Live stream and watching friends’ streams is as tedious now as it was in 2020. If the game you’re playing n is not automatically recognized by Discord, you still have to dig somewhere obscure in the settings to tell Discord to recognize it. You still can’t independently resize individual stream windows, so if you’re looking at more than one your only options are “make one super small and the other huge” or “squish both into a medium sized window” . Streams periodically stutter for no apparent reason, a persistent bug that reduces voice quality after connecting to a stream continues to bother, and there’s still no universal volume slider for video.
Poor UI and annoying bugs are minor grievances, but that’s the kind of stuff Discord a few years ago would prioritize. I used to read new patch notes with anticipation. A built-in AI voice filter? Surprising. Multi-stream support? Costs. Game invites from Discord? Nice. 60
fps video? Killer. Now, the patch notes are filled with moderation tools, scheduled events, and role assignments. I don’t really need to moderate the 12 people using our little friend group server, so it’s been business as usual.
The most exciting development for our Discord server in 2021 was… this sticker I made of my friend Ian making a funny face.
Nobody used Stage Discovery, so it’s dead
Do you remember Stage Discovery? It’s ok, I forgot too. In June of last year, at a time when Silicon Valley was very excited about the idea of moderated voice chat rooms like Clubhouse, Discord stepped in with its own take on it called Stage Events. Discord said the feature was popular enough on servers to create the Stage Discovery section, and with it, a button in the top right corner of Discord that I never pressed once. Apparently I wasn’t alone, as Discord discontinued the “pilot” version of Stage Discovery in October 2021.
The radio bots survived the purge (so far)….
Last year, Discord’s status quo was upended when Google shut down the two biggest radio bots, Rhythm and Groovy, for violating its terms of service. The bots, which allowed users to stream audio from any YouTube video to an entire voice channel without ads, were in use on tens of millions of servers. Google denounced the bots for “modifying the service and using it for commercial purposes”.
At the time, I was afraid this would signal the beginning of the end of Discord’s golden age – I figured that at some point in the near future, these unofficial, “underground” tools that circumvent traditional paywalls would be removed and replaced with brilliant traditional subscriptions. apps. I’m happy to say that in 2022 you can still install a radio bot that does the same things as Groovy or Rhythm with ease.
…but Discord could crack down on video sharing
That said, I’m not silencing my alarm yet. While Discord has spoken outwardly about features that make it easier to organize larger communities, it has made no mention of what appears to be a silent battle between Discord, premium video services, and users who stream those video services for their friends. .
It’s Discord’s worst-kept secret that Go Live can be easily used to stream a web browser playing Netflix or HBO for two or ten of your closest buds. Discord claims this is a violation of its policies, but it does not actively enforce them. These small-scale watch parties went mostly undeterred for a long time, but the first sign of resistance came in 2020 when users noticed that trying to stream Netflix on Discord would normally result in a black screen. Users have figured out that disabling hardware acceleration in your web browser bypasses this roadblock. There are signs that the video services themselves are behind this seemingly intentional anti-piracy tactic, and two years later a similar blocker is also present in several other premium services.
For now, Discord seems content to state its official policies and look the other way. Back in 2019, Discord told us that it doesn’t monitor Go Live streams, and that it couldn’t logistically do so if it wanted to. And it should be noted that DMCA reports require someone to report copyright infringement. If neither Discord nor the copyright holder sees it, there is nothing to report. But just as YouTube ultimately couldn’t ignore copyright strikes and created an automated system to detect infringement and punish people, the chat app may one day feel compelled to take action. similar.
So far, Discord’s PlayStation partnership is a disappointment
When Discord announced a partnership with PlayStation last year, my mind went to the same place I imagine yours did: “Oh cool, Discord is finally coming to consoles!”
Not only did that not happen, but Discord didn’t say it would ever happen. In January, Discord shared its first PlayStation partnership update in nearly a year and all it had to announce was the ability to see what PS5 game you’re playing on your Discord profile (yipee). The update makes no mention of additional plans to unite the two platforms, which I find very odd. Discord knows that users would be extremely excited by an official console client, so if it made one, you’d think it would say the same.
Perhaps it’s safer to assume that Discord on PlayStation is still a pipe dream? Shame.
What’s next for Discord?
According to Discord, more features aimed at large communities. It is not a surprise. Mega communities give Discord a lot of leverage to monetize new or old parts of the service. Testing of a Patreon-like subscription model for premium server access is already underway.
Behind the scenes, analysts seem increasingly confident that Discord will go public as soon as this year. Last year, the company was valued at $15 billion. Once Discord has a sea of investors to cater to, things could start to change quickly for the free service. Discord will not commit to any of its features remaining free forever.
We’ll also likely see less gaming DNA in Discord as it continues to have broader appeal. That said, playing and streaming games is clearly still one of the main reasons people use Discord, so a large-scale transformation into productivity software or a community of badminton enthusiasts isn’t likely.