DATE: Tue 23 Mar 2021 By:

Discord by Microsoft.

The dystopia has entered our back yard.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most gamers use Discord. Not all, sure, but most do. I was surprised at how Linux gamers were very willing to embrace Discord given its proprietary nature. We already had IRC, Mumble, Matrix, Jitsi and tox (to name a few) but discords ubiquity won out, and fast.

I think it’s the way it consolidates all of our communities into one platform that makes it appealing. Combine that with drop-in voice rooms and some momentum from streamers and the foothold was in place. Once a lot of gamers jumped on it others joined to hang out with their friends. The mass grew. Soon enough it was essentially mandatory for social gamers.

Then this happens…

I think we all saw it coming. Discord can’t be cheap to operate and they seem to have no way of making money aside from “Nitro” - A subscription that no-one cares about.

How the heck did Discord cover its costs? I would assume selling user data, that trickle from subscriptions, the occasional game sale (before they shit canned the store) but over-all there is no way Discord is a profit generating power house. Given the number of users it has, it should be rolling in cash. I’m fairly sure that the “Gift Nitro” button on my chat bar is a symptom of their struggles.

A discord operated by Microsoft on the other hand makes perfect sense. All Microsoft chat platforms become discord accounts. Discord functionality bleeds into everything Microsoft do. Xbox chat becomes Discord. Cross platform voice and text communication under one banner. They can make the word “Discord” synonymous with communication. Gamers being happy to “pull in” family members so that they can dump WhatsApp and just use one chat platform for everyone.

Now add X-Cloud and Game pass to the app on mobile and desktop and it’s suddenly a gaming hub. It also suddenly places Game pass onto a lot of people machines without them realising. As an advertising move alone it will generate a shitload of subs. Game pass and Discord being integrated essentially makes it an instant Steam contender for a great number of people. How that will work in Linux though is a point of concern.

There is literally now way it’s not a good move for Microsoft.

But this is Linux.

Yes. And there lies the worry. The thing Linux users like about Discord is that it works on Web/Linux/Windows/Mac/Phones we are essentially on even footing with everyone and we don’t have to convince anyone to install something to communicate with us. It’s not like we are trying to brainwash our Windows friends into installing Mumble so we can chat. Discord is everywhere and everyone is on it.

The Discord client is a bit shit sure. But it works. It crashes a lot when you paste in images. The game streaming doesn’t have sound. It gets caught in update loops. Sometimes it refuses to let me connect to voice for no reason. But overall it mostly works as expected for most users. All those little problems I listed and it’s still a damned sight easier to use than Mumble or Matrix for most people.

We tolerate Discord because we like its overall offerings. Voice, text, images, notifications and history. It’s better than TeamSpeak was. It works better than Skype ever did for us. IRC without the bouncers. Mumble without the effort. Jitsi without the bandwidth. Discord is mostly great for most people. However, we always knew it wasn’t ours.

It was never going to be a long term solution. Most Linux users were on Discord while they waited for Matrix to “get there” or for another, free software and self hosted pipe dream to be birthed into the world.

Well boat sailed. Looks like Microsoft own your friends list now. Honestly, we should never have embraced Discord. It was a mistake to put all of our social eggs into a proprietary basket.

We did this to ourselves. We built communities in someone else’s house. We allowed our social life to be in the hands of a corporation and now we regret it because no Linux user trusts Microsoft. In fact we didn’t trust Discord but it was easier to ignore them, it was less unsettling. I really do think that this will all be fine, or at least we will be no worse off than we are now, I do also think that many Linux users will swear off Discord now though. We will haemorrhage members from all of our Linux themed rooms. The great exodus will soon begin. Honestly though, we should never have been on discord. It was an error in judgment from the start. We know the downsides. We understand the problems yet still, we joined.

I actually think Microsoft will be reasonably good stewards of Discord. They are a least no longer Linux-Hostile and they are really good with Electron. They also have no reason to “fix” discord to only work with Windows because they have X-Cloud and the whole point of that is to bring gaming to non-windows and low powered platforms. They support a Linux skype and Teams, VS-Code and Powershell. They basically don’t “get in the way” any more. There’s no reason to think that Microsoft will do a worse job than Discord of making an electron chat application for us.

The real question will be if Linux users will accept a Microsoft owned Discord. I think not.

What does Hex think?

Oh me? I’m so glad you asked. I don’t care who owns discord. I’ll keep using it until my friends all move to something else. It’s that simple for me. I don’t much care about privacy because I consider Discord to be a “public” platform. I don’t care what the future holds for the platform either, I’ll just use Steams chat features if discord suddenly vanishes. If anything this will prompt a “knock off” that will be all the features with none of the Microsoft. This maybe just what we need to get a new open chat platform. That would be nice, but I don’t really think get emotional about it. I’m a happy nomad who will easily move on to the next thing with my pals.

Over all, I’m aware that Discord was a mistake, and I don’t want to leave it to just go to another proprietary platform. With this in mind, I’ll push for open platforms when my friendship group and I do have to move on for whatever reason but I don’t get attached to things I don’t own.

I have no doubt that at some point ill end up paying of a VPS and host my own solution. Until then I’ll go where the friends are.

If all else fails, we still have E-mail.