Discord disquiet: Users up in arms over platform’s username changes

8 May 2023

Image: © Oksana/Stock.adobe.com

Discord devotees are lamenting the change from its current usernames format to a new format that resembles other platforms like Twitter.

The decision by VoIP and instant messaging platform Discord to do away with its four-digit usernames has caused outrage among its users.

Discord’s co-founder Stanislav Vishnevskiy said in a blogpost on 3 May that it was changing its current username format to remove four-digit discriminators and replace them with a unique alphanumeric username with an ‘@’ suffix similar to Twitter.

Discord usernames have until now been cAsE sEnSitIvE and had a number attached to them called a discriminator (#0001). This lets users have the same username as someone else as long as they have different discriminators or different case letters.

Vishnevskiy said that when Discord was founded, the team wanted to ensure that users could always pick their own username regardless of whether it had already been taken. He also said that he was aware the old style made Discord unique.

He and his co-founder built the platform to serve gamers who wanted to chat while playing games.

“We were building Discord as a place to hang out with our friends while playing games. Back then I was playing Final Fantasy XIV and it was important to me that I show up in the Discord server as my in-game character,” Vishnevskiy explained.

However, due to the platform’s growth in popularity since it was set up in 2015, the use of non-unique usernames has caused problems.

“The technical and product debt we incurred years ago caught up with us and small issues that seemed to impact a few people started affecting tens of millions of people,” said Vishnevskiy.

The biggest problem was that the username and discriminator can often be too complicated or obscure for people to remember and share easily.

More than 40pc of people don’t remember their discriminator and almost half of all friend requests across Discord fail because users enter an incorrect or invalid username due to a combination of missing discriminator and incorrect casing, Vishnevskiy said.

“The whole point of these changes is that we want to make it a lot easier for you and all the new users coming to Discord to connect and hang out with friends,” Vishnevskiy wrote, adding that he was aware of how important users’ identities are to them.

Discord will allow users to set a display name that does not have to be unique, however. The changes will happen over the course of this year. On 6 May,  Discord published instructions on its help centre for users wondering how the name change will work.

As the change is being rolled out gradually, some will have the new username format while others will have the old one.

Speaking to The Verge over the weekend, users were divided over the changes. Some believed the move would leave them open to impersonation, while others said the change to standardised usernames was a sign that Discord was “giving in to the usual social media norms”.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.