Discord on Tuesday announced it’s making a number of changes to expand its service beyond the gaming community. The company says the change is one its users have requested as Discord has become more of a tool for “day-to-day communication.”
It doesn’t have a new name, but Discord is effectively rebranding away from being an app dedicated to helping gamers communicate with one another during a tense online match.
“Games are what brought many of you on the platform, and we’ll always be grateful for that,” reads a blog post by Discord CEO Jason Citron and CTO Stanislav Vishnevskiy. “As time passed, a lot of you realized, and vocalized, that you simply wanted a place designed to hang out and talk in the comfort of your own communities and friends. You wanted a place to have genuine conversations and spend quality time with people, whether catching up, learning something, or sharing ideas.”
The company has launched a redesigned website with the tagline “Your place to talk.” The new site describes Discord as appropriate for school clubs, gaming groups, art communities, or just groups of friends. Discord outlined a number of actions it plans to take to make its platform friendlier to non-gaming users. They include improving “the new user onboarding experience,” increasing capacity for voice and video chat, and continuing to invest in “reliability and performance as our top priority.” Discord says it made the interface’s built-in jokes and references less specific to gaming. And the company has created a “Discord Safety Center” that summarizes its data practices, rules, safety tips, and explanations for parents and teachers.
Practically speaking, what the rebranding means for current and, more specifically, new Discord users is a “streamlined” onboarding experience and updated templates that make it easier to set up a server. Moving forward, they’ll also be fewer jokes within the app referencing games “to make sure everyone can take part in the fun.” Moreover, Discord claims user safety will be a major focus. “We will continue to take decisive action against white supremacists, racists and others who seek to use Discord for evil,” the company said. Discord says it has also fixed “hundreds” of bugs, as well as increased voice and video capacity by 200 percent.
Discord spends a lot of the blog post saying how the change in branding is a reflection of how people use the platform. “Looking ahead, we want to focus on the experiences and people that matter to you. And that doesn’t always include games. In many cases, you told us it doesn’t include games at all,” the company said. However, what it doesn’t mention is that the change in focus may have been necessitated by higher financial stakes and more mainstream ambitions.
Toward the end of the blog post, Discord offhandedly mentions “$100 million in additional funding.” Before today, Discord’s most recent funding round saw the company raise $150 million at a $2 billion valuation. This was back in 2018 when it was experimenting with its own digital storefront for games. A lot has changed since then, especially in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of the year, the number of people using the app daily has increased by 50 percent in the US, doubled in Spain and France and tripled in Italy.
Discord has also placed a heavier emphasis on its voice chat platform of late. The company said in April that it had seen 50 percent growth in voice users in the US since the beginning of 2020. The company introduced a noise-suppression feature in beta as part of a partnership with Krisp.ai that detects and removes background noise so voices can be heard more clearly — a function that Microsoft also announced for Teams last month.
In March, Discord upped the number of users who can simultaneously view a live stream from 10 to 50, also citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying surge in live streaming and video chatting. Citron noted that the feature would be useful for teachers conducting classes remotely or co-workers collaborating. Discord stated in a tweet that it would maintain the higher limit “while it’s most critically needed.”