Discord has become one of the most popular platforms for online communities and conversations in recent years. With its focus on voice chat and dedicated text channels, it provides an engaging space for discussion. However, as with any tool, it's important to understand both its strengths and limitations. Let's take a deeper look at Discord servers to analyze what they can offer and where they may fall short.
An Overview of Discord
Discord is a free voice, video, and text communication service. At its core, Discord connects game developers with their communities and helps those communities connect with each other. Some key facts about Discord:
- Founded in 2015, Discord currently has over 250 million users around the world. It started as a communication tool for gamers but has expanded to serve many other communities.
- Users join Discord servers dedicated to their favorite games, communities, and friends. Within each server, there are multiple text and voice channels for different topics and activities.
- The service provides a robust and customizable user interface for messaging, voice/video calls, and overall server organization and management. Popular features include direct messaging, channel categories, and streaming/sharing capabilities.
- Discord offers both web and app-based access to its features. Desktop and mobile apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS so communication can happen anywhere.
- Servers and communities are free to use with some premium subscriptions available like Discord Nitro which unlocks additional customization options, larger file uploads, and animated emojis.
- Discord generates revenue through these premium subscriptions as well as strategic partnerships with influencers, game developers, and other entertainment organizations.
As both a communication platform and digital community space, Discord aims to make connecting and collaborating across various interests and circles of friends as seamless as possible. Its cross-platform functionality and familiar design have helped it scale to support millions of active communities worldwide.
Pros of Discord Servers
Discord offers some clear advantages for building online communities:
- Familiar platform. Nearly everyone online today is familiar with Discord, lowering the entry barrier for new users. No lengthy explanations are needed of how it works.
- Engaging experience. The live chat and ability to have concurrent voice conversations make Discord feel lively and interactive. It keeps members invested.
- Easy administration. Setting up channels, moderating chat, and managing member roles is relatively straightforward on Discord.
- Free version available. The basic server functionality is free forever. This makes it very low-cost to experiment and get started.
- Feature-rich as you scale. Upgrading server features like improved moderation tools or increased file storage is available via a paid subscription if your community grows.
- Customization options. Extensive ability to customize server appearance via themes, Roles and permissions settings, verification processes, and integrate with third-party bots to expand functionality.
Having chat be the core focus does lead to lively conversations and facilitates building connections between members. The sense of "being there" in real-time discussions is a major strength of Discord.
Cons of Discord Servers
However, Discord is not without its downsides to consider as well:
- Information silo. As mentioned earlier, all content and discussions are contained within the private server alone. Nothing is discoverable to non-members through search engines.
- Locked-in users. It can be difficult to convince Discord users comfortable with the platform to migrate communities to alternate venues as needs change over time.
- Ephemeral content. Long discussions easily get pushed back, making it hard for new/returning members to catch up or find valuable past conversations.
- No organization/hierarchy. Discord lacks formal thread structures, categories, or subfolders to help organize discussions by topic over the long run at scale.
- Voice-centric design. While text chat is popular, some communities have more focus on written discussions. Discord prioritizes real-time audio/video which isn't always preferred.
- Reliance on third-party bots. Features like calendars, wikis, etc. require additional bots/apps to be operational versus being core to the platform.
The dynamic, chat-focused nature that makes Discord engaging can also become a weakness as organization and discovery suffer with very large or long-running communities. Information dispersal becomes an issue.
Conclusions on Using Discord
In summary, Discord delivers a fun and instantly familiar experience for real-time discussions, particularly in its early stages. However, as communities grow very large or wish to better organize valuable knowledge over the long term, alternative platforms may become more suitable compared to Discord's chat-first design.
Some best practices when using Discord include:
- Establishing other cross-linked venues (forum, website, social media, etc.) for persistent content.
- Implementing threading/categorization bots to improve the organization of long discussions.
- Consider migration to alternative platforms as needs/scale dictate rather than being locked into one siloed location.
- Supplementing with other project organization tools for tasks, documentation, and asset management beyond chat.
While certainly capable of many community scenarios, it's important to evaluate all of Discord's strengths and limitations to ensure they align with your particular community goals, both now and in the future. Its chat-centric emphasis presents pros and cons to carefully weigh for your specific needs and vision.