Discord is a popular platform for creating communities using servers with different channels that allows the users to chat via text, media, voice, and screen sharing.
Discord is built to create and manage private and public communities. It gives users access to tools focused around communication services like voice and video calls, persistent chat rooms, and integrations with other gamer-focused services along with the general ability to send direct messages and create personal groups. Although at first, Discord services seem directed towards only gamers, in recent years, it has brought several new updates, making it more useful for the general population.
Discord communities are organized into discrete collections of channels called servers. Servers are referred to as “guilds” in the developer documentation. Users can create servers for free, manage their public visibility and create both channels and channel categories up to 250.
Members can help servers obtain perks in 3 levels via the “Server Boost” feature, which unlocks higher quality voice channels, more emoji slots, and other perks. Users can buy boosts for servers for $4.99 a month. “Discord Nitro” subscribers get two boosts included in the price of Nitro, and 30% off for all other boosts.
Channels may be either used for voice chat and streaming or for instant messaging and file sharing.
Text channels support some rich text via a subset of the Markdown syntax. Code blocks with language-specific highlighting can also be used.
Direct messages in Discord allow people to text, share files, live stream and call others privately outside of servers. An added feature in Discord direct messages is the ability to create message groups of up to 10 users. This acts similar to a server's text channel, with the ability to initiate a call simultaneously for all the members in a direct message group (in servers, people can only join voice channels but cannot be called into)
Users register for Discord with an email address and must create a username. To allow multiple users to use the same username, they are assigned a four-digit number called a “discriminator”, prefixed with “#”, which is added to the end of their username.
Both at the server and the user level, Discord allows users to connect these to their Twitch or other gaming service account.
Users can assign themselves a profile picture. Subscribers for Discord Nitro, part of Discord's monetization plan, can use animated profile pictures.
Video calling and screen sharing were added in October 2017, allowing users to create private video calls with up to 10 users, later increased to 50 due to the increased popularity of video calling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August 2019, this was expanded with live streaming channels in servers. A user can share their screen if Discord has detected they are playing a game and others in that channel can join the channel to watch the stream. While these features mimic livestreaming capabilities of platforms like Twitch, the company does not plan to compete with these services, believing that these features are best used by small groups.
In December 2016, the company introduced its GameBridge API, which allows game developers to directly integrate with Discord within games.
In December 2017, Discord added a software development kit that allows developers to integrate their games with the service, called “rich presence”. This integration is commonly used to allow players to join each other's games through Discord or to display information about a player's game progression in their Discord profile.
Discord also provides tools for users to create their own Internet bots. There are tools such as discord.js and discord.py that allow bot developers to interact with the Discord API to control their bot.
Documentation for the Discord API is hosted on GitHub.