footer logo

Blog Post

Discord Introduction, Uses, History and more

Discord Introduction, Uses, History and more

Discord was on track to solve a big tricky: connecting with friends worldwide while playing games operative. Since childhood, makers Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy both collected a love of video games, cherishing the friendships and networks that shaped while playing them. At the time, all the gears built for this job were slow, defective, and multifaceted. Jason and Stan knew they could do a better service that fortified talking, helped form recollections, and recreated the feeling of togetherness, all found through gaming.

Where are we here and now?

Discord is used by everybody, from local mountaineering clubs to art groups and study groups. Discord has millions of people making places for their friends and groups, talking for 4 hours daily on the stage. Discord is now where the world discusses, hangs out, and builds relations. Discord lets anyone generate a space to find fitting—just like it did for Jason and Stan.

What Is Discord?

Discord was initially designed as an online hangout where gamers talked with each other while playing multiplayer online games. Users access the app on a computer, smartphone, or gaming console. In closed, themed online communities, users communicate by text, voice, video, and screen sharing.

The app has servers that function much like channels in the workplace tool Slack. Servers can be either private or public. For example, a small, close-knit group of friends who know each other in real life may form a server. Some server are massive, such as a popular Minecraft server with more than one million people worldwide. (Over a quarter million of those members were active on the server when the author checked while writing this story.)

Discord associated with gamers

Though Discord continues to be associated with gamers, the product has evolved since its 2015 debut. That evolution was aided, in part, by those seeking new communication tools during early pandemic lockdowns. In response, the company changed its tagline in 2020 from “chat for gamers” to “chat for communities and friends.”

Discord users skew young. Approximately 38 percent of its web users and nearly half of its Android app users are between 18 and 24 years old,

Social media offers adolescents and others a platform to amplify their good or bad behavior. In 2023, for example, Discord had approximately 154 million monthly active users. That following is sizable, even if it is notably smaller than those of Twitter and Facebook, which have nearly 556 million and three billion monthly active users, respectively.

Discord’s Past Problems

In addition to the recent military documents leak, Discord has also been at the center of other investigations. In 2017, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right hid behind a private, unmoderated Discord server to plan speakers, rideshares, accommodations, and more for the “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville, Va. At the rally, a man drove his car into a group of people, killed a woman at an antiracism protest, and injured many more.

“Discord’s mission is to bring people together around betting a bet. We’re about positivity and inclusivity. Not hate. Not violence,” the company responded then, adding that it shut down the server.

Also, last year, a white gunman who killed 10 Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, N.Y., shared details of his plans with members of a Discord community before the attack.

In higher ed, during the early COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, online trolls made plans on Discord to execute Zoombombing attacks on classes that had been force online. Some of the intruders shared explicit images, streamed pornography, drew crude images over instructors’ slides, exposed themselves, or repeatedly voiced racial slurs—some aimed at specific instructors or students.

The company has since expressed its intention to be more severe about moderating content on its platform. Beginning in 2020, for example, it accelerated the number of servers banned for extremist content. The company also sought to reinvent itself by diversifying its user base to include teachers, Boy Scouts, book clubs, and those aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

How Do Students Use Discord?

Many college students use Discord for the same reasons as other social media platforms—to express themselves, connect with others, and build social networks. That may confer benefits, including valuable support for those who are marginalized. But it may also confer risks, including some unique to academic settings.

“Discord can be use for sharing exam questions and responses,” Megan McNamara, a lecturer in sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said of the potential for academic dishonesty. “There are also instances where students use Discord to bash instructors … It’s not a supervised place, so it becomes a bit Wild West.”

But McNamara believes Discord offers students more benefits than harms. On the platform, students can collaborate, seek assistance, and get to know each other in an instructor-free space. That can be especially valuable for building community in online courses

“Some instructors join,” Aaron Zachmeier, associate director for instructional design at UC Santa Cruz, said. “Some don’t. Some join at the invitation of their students.” (McNamara and Zachmeier wrote about Discord for Inside Higher Ed earlier.)

“The servers operate like little fiefdoms,” Dym said. “You have the person who originated the server, and they have supreme administrator controls unless they relinquish them. Then you can appoint other administrators who have other powers.”


“A Roman Empire History Discord server might be about the history of the Roman Empire, or it might eventually slip into weird alternative history facts,” Dym said.

Though its servers may be unofficial components of a college course, students may report violations of college policies they witness on the site to college employees. For that reason, McNamara reminds new students that their behavior on Discord should align with the university’s expectations.

“My overall approach has been fatalistic realism,” McNamara said, adding that she talks openly with students about behavioral expectations for engaging on Discord. “If we try to control this too much, students will start a new server and go further underground.”

Related posts