Discord: Do Not Migrate

Recently, there's been a revolt with many moderators and Reddit users concerning their API changes. Many subreddits went dark for a while (or longer) in protest. Right, wrong, or indifferent, Reddit has decided not to backtrack or change policies despite the protests. This has caused some subreddits to move to new services, such as /r/startrek to lemmy or discord in the case of /r/iphone. I want to discuss a few reasons why I think Discord is a terrible idea for a new community and why, generally, I really dislike Discord for large, semi-anonymous communities.

Losing the Thread

There are two basic modes of communication among multiple parties: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communication is something intended to be happening in real time. Things like talking, chat/instant message/slack, etc., this includes Discord1. Synchronous communications usually only make sense in context, that is to say, if you’re not keeping up with the flow of conversation, you will likely get lost. Also inherit to synchronous communication is the fact that it’s one voice at a time, and typically one conversation.

Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, doesn’t require one to follow along constantly and allows more than one conversation at a time. This is what Reddit is. There are a lot of comments happening and you can read them, following down a thread, or just reading top-level comments. When we move to synchronous communication, we lose the ability to follow a topic at our leisure. Once we disappear for some time and come back, it can be hard to follow the thread again.

The Deep Web

Discord is part of the deep web; its contents are not indexed by search engines. Even worse, you cannot even see what Discord servers even exist without knowing they exist in the first place, unlike Reddit where you can browse for subreddits.

This presents a big problem for community access. Reddit has become an incredible community of high-quality human-generated content. Today’s internet is saturated with spam, ads, bots, and—increasingly—AI-generated content. It’s hard to find actual human thought. Personally, I’ve used Reddit a lot to find solutions to real-world problems, find advice on products (where Amazon reviews suck), and explore thoughts of like-minded folks on niche topics.

With Discord being on the deep web and having no directory of publicly available Discord servers, when a community migrates to Discord, they are shutting themselves out of new users who are unable to discover the community in the first place!

Venture Capital: That Old Chestnut

Anyone who thinks Discord will be a better steward for their community than Reddit is delusional. Once upon a time, Reddit was the rebel darling of the internet. Its founders, filled with memes, were happy to engage in the community in a playful way. Now we are here.

Like Reddit, Discord was built on the backs of VC money. This means that, eventually, Discord will suffer the same fate as Reddit. It seems that all technology platforms are destined to the same fate of becoming hostile to their users. This isn’t something that is per se for VC-backed startups, but when the investors are ready to get their payback, these companies typically make decisions that are harmful for their consumers to increase—or create—profits.

Thank-you, Next

I think there are generally two kinds of subreddit, those that are submission-based and discussion-based. Submission based are those where links, pictures, etc. are essentially the only items posted. Places like /r/pics, /r/memes, and /r/science. These subreddits have a community discussion on these submissions, in the comments, but typically text-posts are rare. Other discussion-based subreddits are mostly or only text posts like /r/AskReddit and /r/AskHistorians. There are certainly some subreddits that mix the two, and I generally think mixed subreddits are closer to discussion. You’re there to read and contribute rather than just get your social media fix.

Most of my Reddit use was in discussion-based communities. For a more open replacement for these communities, I think internet forums are an excellent, and in many cases a better way of forming a community. Forums were popular in the early and mid 2000s and many of the popular forum software packages (e.g., phpBB, SMF, vBulletin) all started around that time and powered many communities I used to frequent.

Even today, there are still some forums I frequent and are a wealth of knowledge and community discussion. Recently, I started a forum for a workout program I am passionate about (and will write about soon) hoping to grow an open community. Hopefully more people do this, and search engines change their Reddit-favoring approach and start to promote more open communities and forums to the top of search results.

  1. Yes, I know discord has threads, but they don’t work well in practice.


Article by: 7/4/2023 10:51:03 AM

Published: Noah Wood