If you’re at all involved in any form of online gaming, you will definitely have heard of, and likely use, Discord: a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) communication software designed for ease of use for people playing online with each other, with minimal impact to their internet bandwidth and online gaming performance.
But when was Discord made? The initial public release of the Discord platform was on May 13th 2015. Not long after this it quickly gained traction on various subReddits dedicated to League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Diablo and different esports. By 2017 the platform had become the dominant means of communication for gamers of all types, and since 2020 the platform has expanded its scope to include a multitude of non-gaming communities, businesses, and educational audiences.
The foundations of the platform began when Jason Citron co-founded the company Hammer & Chisel with Stan Vishnevskiy back in 2012, which began work on a League of Legends-like game called “Fates Forever”. Though the game itself proved unsuccessful, the text and voice chat technology built into the game was much more user friendly and functional for people playing online than the best alternatives at the time: namely Skype and Teamspeak, which were widely used but also widely hated. Vishnevskiy suggested they pivot the focus of the company from the game itself to focus solely on the communication platform, and so through 2014 Hammer & Chisel closed down the game development team, laying off around 30% of its staff in the process, and reorganised the company towards this aim.
Following the release of the Discord app on the 13th May 2015, its user base snowballed, reaching 3 million by the end of 2015. Over the course of 2016 (from January to December) the number of registered users on Discord grew from 3 million to 25 million. However, like any growing company, Discord has not been without its stumbling blocks. In 2017 following the Charlottesville attack the number of far-right groups using the platform to communicate and share ideas was brought to light and there is an ongoing struggle by the company to keep racist and violent material, as well as that related to child pornography, off the platform – issues faced by most in the online media space. Since 2017 a dedicated “Trust and Safety team” was created, making up 15% of Discord’s employees, whose job is to combat such things. Discord mods also now have greater powers to ban and report offenders and various bots exist which are able to pick up on offending language.
Despite the challenges, Discord has still managed to go from strength to strength. By the end of 2017 this had grown to 90 million, and at the time of writing, in 2020, it’s at over 300 million, with around 100 million of these being people who use the app actively each month.
In March 2020, as the COVID pandemic began to grip the world, Discord changed its motto from “Chat for Gamers” to “Chat for Communities and Friends”. This was the first obvious indication of how the company anticipated the coming changes nationwide lockdowns would bring to the online communication space, and its ambition to get a slice of the wider, non-gaming market.
Discord effectively made this official in an announcement in June 2020, when the company stated it was shifting its focus from just gaming specifically to a more all-purpose communication platform. The company intends to make the experience more user friendly for new users, increase server capacity and reliability, and remove some of the more “gamer” in-jokes which permeate the software. Existing gaming communities will of course still be catered for and shouldn’t lose out on any existing features (we hope!): gamers will still be Discord’s bread and butter for at least the next year or so, although the estimated number of non-gaming users has climbed rapidly, and currently stands at over 30%.
This has been a brief history of why and when Discord was made. Please check out other WePC articles on Discord to find out more about the online communication platform.