Reasons Why People Use Discord
The internet is becoming more and more a part of how people communicate with each other — this has created a need for places online where people can gather and talk. Seeking to replace older VOIP services like TeamSpeak and Skype, Discord set out to become that place for gamers on May 13th, 2015. Then during 2020, Discord pivoted to become that place for any community with the launch of their new slogan: “Imagine a Place”. The change came as a surprise to many but was otherwise well-received by the majority of the application’s users.
Discord’s popularity has inspired many other developers to start similar applications or take a similar approach to the online community formula. Competition in any market is generally good for us consumers, but the advent of these other platforms seeking to take us from Discord begs the questions: Why was Discord so successful in the first place, and why would someone choose to continue to use Discord over one of these potentially better rivals?
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and thoughts from the observations I have made through a survey, conversations with community members and general use of Discord.
Why Did People Switch To Discord?
The biggest reason people switched to Discord was the ability to create a server with Voice and Text at no extra cost. This was a big deal for gaming communities since TeamSpeak generally required you to rent a server and text chat wasn’t great on it. Other services did not have the option for multiple voice channels as they were limited to creating a “group chat”.
Discord solved the two most important things these communities needed at no cost to the user. It seemed too good to be true, but it’s very real and continues to be the norm even in the Discord alternatives out there. This revolutionary change in how we communicate with others is the reason Discord became so popular, but it’s not the reason people continue to use it.
Who Uses Discord?
To determine why people use Discord, I first look at who uses it. We ran a small anonymous survey to gather some insight on what type of communities people are interacting with. The results are interesting.
More than 6 years after Discord’s launch, the majority of users are still using it for gaming, but it is clear that gaming is not the central focus. Social communities for general discussion have become a very popular community type; a trend I believe accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic due to people being stuck inside during lockdowns.
Other popular communities are those focused around Fine Arts, Anime, and Content Creators. There is also an increase in Educational servers as Discord has started rolling out its Student Hubs.
From this, I determined that the majority of people using Discord are gamers or were into gaming at some point, but that this is changing rapidly as more people join the platform for other reasons. From my personal experience, the Discord community in 2019 compared to now has changed so much that calling the application a gaming chat platform is a gross misrepresentation. It is obvious that Discord is a place where you can find a community that suits your interests — gaming or otherwise. If that community doesn’t exist yet, you can create it.
Why Do People Use Discord?
You’ll often see people in social media trying to convince others to use an alternative to Discord, such as Guilded or Sigma, because it offers features that Discord doesn’t have or are locked behind Discord’s paid Nitro subscription. Though it seems that Discord almost always wins out in the court of public opinion.
In order to answer why, I took it upon myself to get to know one of the Discord alternatives known as Guilded and studied the communities using it. Guilded is currently Discord’s biggest competitor and the platform I personally prefer due to the features it offers to communities. Its robust feature set and relative popularity makes it the best comparison when attempting to determine why people will continue to use Discord over alternatives. Here’s what I found.
If you would like to read more about Guilded vs Discord then check out our article on it here.
Ease of Use
One of the biggest complaints people have on Guilded is how hard it is for them to get acquainted with the application and community. Discord is an overall much easier platform to just jump into, especially if all you want to do is chat with others. All you need to do to start talking with others is create an account and find the servers you want to join. Guilded, on the other hand, forces you to make a server when creating an account, and joining servers is not immediately obvious. It’s hard to find a good community for you regardless of the platform, but Discord has many more third-party resources such as server listing sites.
Another complaint is that the UI of some alternatives feels clunky at times. A user’s experience and comfort in using a server is often what makes or breaks its success. Discord’s UI has been polished over the past 6 years and they continue to work on it every day. Some changes weren’t as well-received, but for the most part Discord has a UI that is intuitive.
Looking at Guilded’s UI, it’s more difficult to find simple things such as the server list or how to join a server. The UI is not as easy to navigate for the average user and feels much more geared towards people who want to create servers than people who want to join it.
Discord’s UI is definitely a factor in why people continue to use it. When the UI of a new platform is complicated, or you can’t easily find what you want, you’ll likely find yourself going back to the platform that gives you that.
Discord was first-to-market (the first to hit critical mass at least). That’s everything in social media markets ruled by the Network Effect. The fact that Discord has existed much longer than most alternatives out there makes it the de facto choice. Most people that have any engagement with social media have at least heard of Discord.
In line with the Network Effect, the larger the platform, the easier it is to find and engage with people on it. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Those looking to grow an engaging community should seek out the largest players in a given social media circuit. With more communities comes greater variety and choice for users trying to find like-minded people to socialize with, further feeding the cycle.
When comparing Discord’s popularity versus Guilded’s, it’s clear that Discord has the advantage of age because Guilded did not enter the chat platform market until late 2019. It has shown a lot of promise up until now, but all you need to do is take one look to know it’s still focused on gamers. This means that Discord will remain the popular choice for other types of communities.
Friends and Community
Earlier I mentioned the Network Effect, essentially a social media platform gets harder to compete with the larger it gets. Part of this is linked to the earlier point about the platform’s size equating to more variety and users for engagement. The other part is actually much more important and even more impenetrable for competitors jumping into the market late. This is that people tend to stay on platforms where their friends, family, and communities already are. In order to get an individual to switch, a competing platform has to not just convince them, but convince all “their people” as well.
Often people tell me they want to use a different platform such as Guilded, but they can’t because none of their friends are using it. The same is often said by admins of a community. They want their communities to move to another platform that might be offering features that better suit their community. But imagine telling a thousand people you are moving the community to a new platform and closing the one on Discord; that they have to sign up for a new account, download a new app, and juggle this new app with Discord that still has the other communities that they’re in. It’s a tough sell no matter how you present it, and that’s why many people will stay on Discord until a competitor starts pulling away significant amounts of users and communities.
In the end, it comes down to what people are used to using and where all the people they want to chat with are. A Discord alternative can offer you the moon, sun, and stars, but if it can’t convince your friends to join or make it really easy for you to use the platform, you won’t be joining it.
Will Discord Be Able To Maintain Its Popularity?
The world is ever-changing and what people want or need from a platform like Discord might not look the same in 5 years. We believe that as long as Discord keeps its users happy, it will be able to ride the waves of change. Of course, there is the consideration that a company needs to make money, but consumers are a key part of making any kind of profit.
Discord has built a very strong platform that can potentially last for many more years as long as they maintain their core functionality of providing text and voice chat at no cost. However, they also have to consider how changes will affect the opinions of people. One misstep will not break the company, but many over a period of time can cause harm and make them vulnerable to the competitors lying in wait.
In general, Discord is a good platform to find people to chat with, but so are many of the alternatives out there. It all comes down to your preference and what you want out of the platform. There is also nothing wrong with using more than one chat platform or even using them together as we do for the blog’s community. All that matters in the end is that you are enjoying the platform you have decided to use.
If you liked this article and publication, please consider leaving a 👏 applaud. It will let our authors know that you found this kind of information worthwhile.
If you want to continue discussing this article and other ideas in this blog or related topics, join the Community Builders Discord server where CBB conversations are occurring!
Our blog is sponsored by Statbot, the premier statistics and analytics Discord bot and dashboard for your community. It is an absolute must-have for any server that is serious about its growth and well-being. When a server has Statbot in it, you know it’s aiming to be the best of its kind! Statbot tracks member count, messages, minutes spent in voice, activity, and statuses. It offers many ways to view and use this data to help grow your community, such as, automatic role assignment according to users activity in your Discord server (A.K.A. Statroles), and channel counters that allow you to display all kinds of stats about your community to others as a channel (A.K.A. Statdocks). If you run a Discord server we highly recommend getting Statbot to help track your growth and augment your community.
Have ideas for content you’d like to see on the blog? Make a suggestion!
Think you have what it takes to write for CBB? We’re hiring authors! If you are interested, please fill out this application and join the Community Builders Guilded server where CBB operations are based. We look forward to seeing you!