Discord is a mess. That’s not just one fuddy-duddy tech writer’s opinion, it’s effectively the official word from Discord itself. As part of an effort to be more straightforward and user-friendly, the chat and VOIP platform is reworking its username system and ditching “discriminators,” the four-digit codes followed by a pound symbol (or hashtag to you youngins) in favor of a standard universal username. Unfortunately, that means everyone will need a new one.
“Our current usernames can often be too complicated or obscure for people to remember and share easily,” says Discord co-founder Stanislav Vishnevskiy. In a blog post (via The Verge), he says that the original purpose of the discriminator was so that users could quickly hop on to different chat and voice servers without running into the dreaded “your desired username is taken” message. But after eight years and hundreds of millions of users, Discord is a different place, and it’s intimidating and confusing to new users. The post says that almost half of friend requests fail thanks to a missing discriminator and/or the wrong character casing.
Of course, we’re talking about a tool that’s popular with gamers, so plenty of them might actually like it that way. “Our current username format has been one of the things that makes Discord unique, and that this change makes our usernames look a lot like those on other platforms,” says Vishnevskiy. I can imagine a lot of Discord users clinging to the current system, in a sort of communications equivalent of the “git gud” attitude.
Nevertheless, Discord is going to move to a more conventional system, whether gamers like it or not. Users will be given prompts to update their usernames “In the coming weeks.” By default, your current Discord username (minus the pound sign and digits) will become your new Display Name, regardless of what your new standard, case-ambivalent username is. Server Nicknames will remain in place, unchanged.
Discord’s play for an easier user experience and more broad appeal is hardly unique. Mastodon, a decentralized short message platform that’s risen in popularity as an alternative to the quickly imploding Twitter, recently unveiled a more conventional and straightforward onboarding experience for new users.