Discord is a free to access chat app similar to Slack or Skype that allows users to chat in real time using text, voice or video. Initially created for video gamers to interact with each other while playing games, Discord has grown in popularity with over 100 million users currently. The app hosts servers/chatrooms on different topics, however games, music, anime and memes tend to be the most popular.
In additional Discord is especially useful if you’re trying to play PC games. The app makes chatting pretty easy and offers search functions that can help you find other people and add them to a friends list for quick communication. Lots of people use it not just for talking to each other while playing games but as an organizational and social tool as well.
Thanks to this breadth of functionality, users have also embraced Discord as a semi-public, forum-style community platform. Groups of players with common interests, such as fans of a particular game or studio, can create or join “servers,” both public and private, where lots of people can meet and hang out, chatting via text, video, or voice.
While most of the servers are related to gaming, you can also find public Discord servers that focus on a variety of topics, including things like anime, cryptocurrency, self-improvement, and just making friends and hanging out. There’s also nothing requiring servers to be created for gaming, so if you want a place in Discord to discuss a topic, you can always make one. Handy places to find and search for public servers include Discord.me, Disboard.org, and Discordservers.com.
How does Discord work?
On Discord, users participate in servers, which are similar to chatrooms you might remember from the AOL days. Many servers are private and invite-only. Brands, influencers and esports communities have their own servers, many of which are publicly accessible. You can also start your own server by clicking the plus icon on the left side of the app, and begin inviting friends by their Discord usernames.
Servers have areas for users to talk to each other called channels; one server can have multiple channels. Channels are generally conducted over text, but you can also join a voice channel at any time, which will put you into an audio call with whoever else is in that voice channel. Those on a call can mute or deafen themselves if they don’t want to talk or hear others speaking. (Bonus tip: Don’t forget to hang up the voice channel when you’re done.)
What separates Discord from other platforms?
Though there are a lot of free communication programs online, Discord stands out thanks to its wide array of chat options. It combines all the best features of more commonly used programs, such as Skype and Slack, with an easy-to-use interface. A voice chat program wouldn’t be much use if it slowed down your games while you’re using it, so the team making Discord is dedicated to making it as efficient as possible.
That versatility has led large groups of users to embrace Discord as a place to meet and chat with people who have similar interests, not just friends. It’s part communications app, part social media portal. While the chat room side of the app, in which users can join public or private “servers,” is probably its most popular, it also provides a social forum that’s great for organizing people to play games as well. Essentially, you don’t need video games to make Discord useful — it’s extremely handy for joining with groups of friends on a private server or meeting like-minded folks on public ones.
When you create a Discord server, you can configure it in a multitude of ways by setting up different roles for members, such as creating roles for other administrators and moderators or creating a special role for your most active members. Setting up different member roles has a number of benefits for your server, including making it easier to manage your server, rewarding members for being active, and providing different access permissions.
Discord is also accessible through a number of means, which makes it easy to use even if you’re not sitting in front of a gaming PC. The app has a downloadable PC program you can run on your computer — which is the handy, lightweight version best for running in the background while you play games — as well as a web-based version, a mobile version, and a beta version on consoles. That means you can interact with people in your Discord chat servers from basically anywhere, extending the social capabilities of the app.
Like most other chat apps, Discord also supports the ability for you to create a list of “friends” who use the app that you can contact directly outside of any servers.
The easiest way to add friends to your list is by finding their names on servers you’ve already joined. You can right-click on a Username to find an Add friend button at the bottom of the screen, which will send a friend request to that user. You can also click a Username and pull up that person’s User profile, where another button is located for you to add the person as a friend.
It’s also possible to search for users and add them as friends. If you know their username and they’ve set their privacy settings to allow for search, you can find them using the search field at the top-left of the screen. You can then add those public people as friends just by clicking on the photos of any user on the list.
You can also send friend requests directly from your friend list without doing a search. From your friend list in the Discord client program, you can click the blue Add friend button near the top-left side of the screen. That’ll bring up a field that lets you add the person’s complete user name and their four-digit DiscordTag. The username you’re looking for should come out like this: HelpyHelpnotbot#8877. You’ll need to get that info from your friend to add them on Discord, though.
Once you’ve got some friends, clicking their names on your friends list allows you to quickly open up a direct message feed with them or request video and voice calls. You can also set up a group video or voice chat with multiple friends, even without a server.
2.Connect accounts and build a profile
Discord lets you connect other social media accounts to the app (including but not limited to Steam, Twitch, Twitter, Spotify, and Xbox) to make it easier to track down people you know and flesh out your user profile. Since the app combines private communications with public chat rooms, connecting accounts goes beyond the usual use of finding people you’re already friends with to connect to on Discord. It also makes it easier for people to know who you are in the real world, should you so choose.
Connecting accounts is easy and works the same as with other chat or social media apps — mostly by just allowing you to connect by prompting you for your password for other accounts. The additional functionality of being able to find people you meet on Discord on other media portals has the added function of making Discord into more of a social network itself. If you’re using it to access public servers to find like-minded players in various games, it can be a handy way to meet people.
If you’re more privacy conscious, you can choose whether or not to have your connected social media accounts appear on your Discord profile by toggling the option within your settings. Additionally, if you decide to connect your Xbox account to Discord, you can have it display what game you’re playing in a status-like message in each server’s user list and within your profile.
Voice chat on Discord is pretty easy. Entering a voice channel on a server automatically turns on your microphone, provided you have a working one attached to your computer. You can also access voice chat by creating voice calls or group calls to friends by clicking the Phone icon on your Friends List.
Once you’re in voice chat, Discord offers some handy quick controls at the bottom of the voice chat window or channel window. Clicking the Microphone icon mutes your own mic instantly, while clicking the Headphones icon activates “deafen.” That kills all incoming sound from Discord, as well as mutes your microphone. You can also adjust your audio settings for voice chat and video in the Settings menu, which is accessed by clicking the Gear icon. Getting out of a voice call or voice channel on a server requires you to hit the Hang up icon, which is a phone with an arrow pointing down.
4.Control who you see and hear
Just because you share a server with someone doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Discord includes all the social media-style features that let you determine how you interact with people. Right-clicking a person’s name on the server list prompts a drop-down with a number of options, such as sending a private message, adding the person to your friend list, initiating a voice call, and muting or blocking them. You can even adjust another user’s volume on your end if they’re too loud. Muting a user means you don’t hear their voice in a voice chat, but they can still hear you. Blocking someone prevents you from seeing their text messages; however, you will still hear them if you’re both in the same voice chat.
When you’re an admin on a server — either because you created it or because the admin of a server you’re on gave you that power — you have even more control over undesirable people hanging around. Right-clicking names includes the ability to deafen users so they can’t hear anything from other users or banning them from a server outright.
While you can use Discord for free, the app also offers a paid subscription called Discord Nitro. People who pay for Discord Nitro, which costs $10 per month or $100 per year, get access to a handful of additional features, including the ability to use animated emotes (as well as use one server’s emotes on another), upload bigger files, stream in 4K using Go Live, and boost servers (which helps your favorite servers unlock more functionality and features for its users).
Every Nitro user is granted two boosts by default (though you can always purchase more), which they can use on any server they are in. Boosts are helpful to servers because, as previously mentioned, they unlock functionality for everyone in the server, therefore allowing server owners to offer an even better experience. Features that can be unlocked include more emote slots for the server, better audio quality for voice chat, the ability to customize your server with animated server icons and other graphics, a custom vanity URL to share with people, and much more. If you’re interested in learning more about server boosts, Discord has written a support article explaining all the details, such as how many boosts you need to unlock the three different levels and what functionality you can unlock at each level.
Discord also has a feature called Go Live, which can be enabled by server owners to allow users to stream live gameplay to other users on the server. To “Go Live,” users simply need to click the Go Live button (the display with the arrow in it), found in the bottom left of the screen when connected to a voice chat. Once you click the Go Live button, you will be able to select the game and start streaming it. You can also use Go Live to share your screen or a specific app, which is great if, for example, you want to watch YouTube videos with other people.
Once you or someone is streaming through Go Live, you will see an indicator next to their name in the voice chat showing that they are live, at which point you can click Join stream to start watching. Discord allows people to stream in 720p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 60 fps, and 4K at 60 fps — your quality option depends on the type of Discord account you have (a regular free account, Nitro Classic, or Nitro, respectively).
It can be frustrating to use the same program on different devices and use entirely different layouts. Luckily, Discord pulls everything together by using similar layouts and functions whether you use it on your desktop or laptop; even the mobile apps on your phone and tablet will be intuitive to use. The good news here is that you don’t need to default to your computer when you want an update on your favorite group chat or gaming server. The mobile app can even video call, start discussions, initiate voice calls, and find thousands of servers across the platform. Mobile Discord and Desktop Discord have the same vital tasks and are equally easy to navigate on any of your devices. When you’re away from your personal device, you can log in to your account via a browser and have immediate access to all of your conversations remotely.