Since Discord launched in 2015, it has grown from a simple social app where people (mostly gamers) could chat and make little haiku bots to an all-purpose replacement for Zoom, Slack, and Facebook.
As it has expanded to juggernaut status, its many charms have remained oblique to people who use it as a basic chat and social app. Like me, for instance; I’m on Discord because I really need to share my opinions on royal gossip and YA fantasy and sci-fi novels, but I’m not really a power user. That’s not to mention the many people who are still struggling to manage their Instagram and WhatsApp notifications and might not see the point in switching to Discord at all.
That’s why today, Discord has unveiled several new features that make it easier and ever more alluring to use Discord. In addition to introducing a more affordable subscription tier that unlocks some of the more desirable for-pay features, it is also launching a new app directory and adding some new resources for developers and startups who want to do business on the platform.
Make My ‘Moji
Unlike many (now-ruined) social media platforms, Discord doesn’t make its revenue from advertising. While the core Discord experience is free, the company does offer Nitro, a $10-per-month subscription service that unlocks the ability for users to make custom emoji, support servers, stream HD video, and upload larger files.
If you’re already on Discord, you may have noticed that other people have snazzy avatars, and maybe you've yearned to get your own. I certainly feel this way, but my jealousy never prompted me to pay $10 a month for a subscription, especially when I also had to budget for ad-free Hulu. But now Discord offers Nitro Basic. For $3 a month, I can now whip up all the chameleon heart emoji that my conversations crave, as well as upload bigger files and get new badges on my profile that denote my status.
Breaking the Ice
For many newcomers, Discord feels a little like a fun but chaotic house party. You can’t just waltz in; someone has to invite you. You have no idea where the bathroom is. For about an hour, you’re standing by the fridge, eating chips, and wondering why you’re even there.
Discord is now easing that “fish out of water” feeling with several new features. Maybe you’re in a server waiting to chat with your friends, but one person has simply wandered off. Instead of trying to start a full-on game of Jackbox to pass the time while someone takes only five minutes—they swear!—to go to the bathroom or put a kid back to bed, you can start an activity like a game or a short piece of entertainment within the Discord experience.
Today, you can look for a rocket ship in the voice channel to launch two new activities, Putt Party and Watch Together. If you’re a Nitro subscriber, you can also play Poker Night, Sketch Heads, Chess, Land-io, or Letter League; you can even invite non-Nitro friends to join you.
One of the best parts of Discord is the ability to customize your experience to your heart’s content (see: emoji). “It’s not just a generic chat app,” said Rick Ling, Discord’s group product director. “Hyper-customization makes people feel at home.”
The only problem is figuring out how to do all that customization. To help, Discord today launched a native app directory, which the company teased last year. It allows server admins to browse and discover new apps to add to their servers, like a translation app or a Netflix app to show your voice channel what you're playing on your television while you wait for your friend to finish making her stupid cup of tea.
Starting today, a small group of developers will be able sell premium features of their apps to users within Discord. The company is also starting the first Ecosystem Fund; it has set aside $5 million specifically to fund early-stage developers and startups who want to build a business on Discord. One of the best ways the company can ensure its platform remains one of the most creative social spaces on the internet is to support the people who make it so.
If you’ve had the same running group chat in Apple Messages since 2017, it may be hard to convince you to switch your chat to Discord. Custom emoji and apps—and the ability to get more of them—might seem like trivial features that fall short of making the hassle of switching feel worthwhile. But look around your living room at the homemade quilts, warm lights, and checkers sets under your living room table. It's the small comforts that make a space feel lively and fun, and that's just as true in the virtual world as it is in the real one.