If you play video games, you’ve probably heard about Discord at some point in your life. It’s like an advanced version of Skype or TeamSpeak for gamers. The latest technologies, including noise suppression, make Discord the perfect platform not only for cooperating during gameplay, but also for regular conversation, including business. But how has Discord successfully outperformed all competitors, becoming the most popular platform for online video and audio calls? In this article, we will share the history of this service, and how it managed to achieve such incredible success.

Why has Discord become so popular?

Discord is a product made by gamers, for gamers, which appeared in the market in 2015. Like other similar services, Discord offered a text chat that didn’t stand out among others. But users came to love the voice chat feature, which was far ahead of others. Discord also offered other unique advantages:

  • basic online messenger functionality: free audio calls, video conferencing, messaging, etc.
  • the option to create your own themed channel available to everyone;
  • music broadcasting feature on channels;
  • managing connected devices through a personal profile;
  • use of programs for voice modification (MorphVOX, Scramby);
  • screen sharing between users;
  • integration with popular services such as YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, etc.
  • communication with users during the game;
  • convenient switching between channels and simultaneous conversations with several users;
  • high quality voice communication and connection speed;
  • intuitive and flexible interface;
  • protection against DDoS attacks, hiding IP addresses, control over channel content by the security service;
  • the option to connect a chat bot that automates a channel or profile.

What exactly makes the Discord voice chat different from competitors, other than high-quality sound and connection? Unlike Skype, you don’t need to ‘call’ anyone, entering a number, passwords or links. Discord features numerous themed channels like rooms, where anyone can join. As soon as you join a channel, voice chat is automatically activated, and you can talk to other users on the channel.

Discord has recently tested streaming and united screens during gameplay, which means that the service might soon outrank streaming service Twitch. Discord is increasingly transforming into a social gaming network, which also includes features offered by Slack and even Reddit. While Zoom is focused on organizing video conferences to replace massive offline conferences, Discord aims to increase connection quality and cut down on delays in communication. In this way, the company has raised nearly $400 million in 2019, and Forbes estimates the company value at $3.5 billion.

Creating Discord: gaming and friends

Discord was initially used by teenagers for collaborative games with friends, and also to find new gaming friends. The platform made it possible for gamers to get to know each other and create teams for collaborative quests – and this feature is still relevant for people whose friends aren’t interested in video games, and who have no one to share their hobbies with.

Platform co-founder Jason Citron was always the kind of person who ‘wanted to play Warcraft with friends and have a convenient communication method during the game’. At some point, Citron was almost kicked out of university due to the amount of time he spent playing World of Warcraft instead of studying. Back then, Citron studied programming. He dreamed of developing his own games, and he launched his first mobile app on the App Store in 2008. Citron went on to create the first social network for gamers called OpenFeint, described as ‘Xbox Live for iPhone’, which was ultimately sold to Japanese gaming giant Gree.

Citron launched another company called Hammer & Chisel in 2012, which launched fan favourite Fates Forever, which is similar to League of Legends. This was when he tested the future technologies used for Discord for the first time, with an in-built text and voice chat in the game. Citron and his team understood that the best part of the game was this new opportunity for players to interact.

From ugly duckling to beautiful swan – Hammer & Chisel becomes Discord 

The Discord founders’ decision to create their own platform for gamers was inspired by their dissatisfaction with available services – Skype and TeamSpeak. Most users complained about low sound quality, delays in connection, issues with webcams and various bugs during online conferences.

For Citron, the transition from game development into external software was a difficult one. Hammer & Chisel closed down its development department, fired a third of the company and entirely shifted its profile in three months, and as a result many employees transitioned to entirely new positions. The company wasn’t confident that their plan would work. When Citron launched Discord, he had only 10 users. In the beginning, the platform was unstable: just like Skype, sound quality was subpar. And why would users switch apps if they will hate the new one just as much as the old one? In the first months after Discord was launched, its audio technologies were completely overhauled three times. At the same time, the company launched the moderation feature for users creating their own gaming groups and communities.

Discord was officially launched on May 13, 2015, when strangers started using the platform (Discord was previously available only to his friends and family members).

By 2018, Discord became so well-known, that it became a constant fixture at the core of the gaming universe. Now, the platform boasts over 100 million monthly active users. This fact, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired the platform to consider expanding the range of applications for Discord. It can be used equally effectively for video games and education, for example. In the summer, the company launched its rebranding and redesign: its slogan now sounds like ‘Your place to talk’. This move led to a 47% increase in Discord users. Today, Discord continues to develop in this direction, and the company also announced plans to add VR and AR functionality.