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Discord is Also Shit

October 27th, 2020 at 7:10 AM by Kugee
Category: Internet/Messaging

Let me say this upfront... as of writing this, Discord is a habitual program for me. I operate a server on the platform, I regularly talk to my friends on there, and it's been a very useful tool to bring everyone together for a QuakeWorld deathmatch, a premiere, or a random conversation. I really like how servers can organize discussions into a bunch of channels and provide the ability for users to hop into any voice channel to stream video output from their webcam, capture device, screen, or anything like that.

Yet I have many gripes with the platform. The entire program is written in JavaScript, and desktop executables run under a Chromium wrapper. That has to be the worst foundation for any program, even worse than Java or Python. Discord also happens to be yet another tech company which does data mining, an objectively dirty practice that violates the privacy of DMs and aggregates your activity to a very disturbing extent. Many potentially useful features are locked behind arbitrary paywalls, and the same goes with completely pointless ones that allow users to pretend to be more important than others.

Why can't you let me use this with Windows 95???

Discord being rooted in a Chromium wrapper wouldn't necessarily be as much of a problem as it is if it allowed the use of third-party clients or some form of compatibility with IRC, Jabber, or the like. Chromium is just a modern IE4, if not worse. Discord, being as large as it is now, certainly has the resources to employ people with intimate knowledge of Win32, Cocoa, or GTK beyond porting a web browser. But, you know... software developers are so lazy, I guess. I've programmed in C before; it's hard to get a program well refined, but C is uncomplicated and highly portable! What happened to the days of compiling your own programs?!

Also, why are so many programs totally incompatible with Windows 95 or NT 4.0 these days? What new API functions does SHELL32.DLL in Windows 10 have that I absolutely cannot deliver in Windows 95 some other way? Seriously, I'd like to know! Why do programs need to tie up 512MB of RAM at an absolute minimum? So much of these resources seem to be devoted to useless eye candy, too. Working with Windows 95-style 3D objects with very minimal flair is much more pleasing to the eyes.

That's one of the main reasons why I want to start up an IRC server. IRC is limited to text, but to my understanding, it's simple, open, and lightweight. Going back to older platforms with small, independently managed communities is the first step in reducing our dependence on big tech. It's proven to work very well with IRC, but may be more cumbersome with more resource-heavy applications such as video sharing, which is why I'd favor Vlare over something like PeerTube.

Paywalls!

On top of Discord profiting off of your activities on their platform, they also enjoy extracting money from the wallet of YOU or YOUR PARENTS! Many perks that could greatly enhance a user's experience or otherwise annoy everyone are locked behind a number of paywalls. I can understand wanting to charge more for larger upload sizes, but using custom emojis on all servers or giving your server a banner? What a piece of shit!

What's worse is that server boosts, which are used to enhance a server's functionality are not permanent. You have to maintain a monthly subscription to allow boosts to persist, and boosts can be withdrawn by users on a whim, so operators can lose any functionality they once had, like higher quality audio channels. What if someone doesn't want to be on a server anymore? Tough luck!

Discord's most recent abomination is currently in a soft launch. It's a little something called stickers, which are really nothing more than oversized emojis sanctioned by Discord. They happen to be collectibles, too, so for no reason, you can only get them for a limited time. This is much like the nightmare of Steam trading cards. It's as dumb as it sounds, but if you check my Steam profile, it should be fairly obvious that I was suckered into that thing up until the middle of 2016, I guess.

Painful Cult Brainwashing Marketing

When a company successfully establishes itself as that cool, regular guy which cares about everyone, it allows them to get away with a ton of nefarious bullshit. It worked with Valve, and it worked with Discord... but at least Valve doesn't have the indescribably painful marketing you can find on Discord's YouTube channel. What is it with their marketing, exactly? It's not quite the same kind of phony PR coming from YouTube, but it's not exactly organic like Vlare or my own site, either.

I mean, what do you make of their "35 Reasons to Work at Discord" video? Or a bento box that looks like it fused with a birthday cake? I find their channel genuinely disturbing for some reason. It's forcibly awkward and over the top with its cutsiness, so much so that it ends up being notably hideous. Don't be fooled by their branding. This isn't someone on DeviantArt drawing a heartwarming pile of sneks for their followers to come home to after a shitty day, it's a multi-billion dollar corporation that happens to be run by jackasses.

What is the purpose of saying "shubby-wubby" to someone ordering a product or applying for a partnership? It's as if Discord is talking to us like we are dogs if they knew how to use a keyboard and mouse to the same effect as a largemouth bass... okay, I give up. My best guess is that the deliberately awkward talk alongside their employees being treated with very happy things like video games, giant plushies, beanbags, inflatable pool toys, or whatever, is that there's a devious strategy at play here. The insane branding and the paradise goods and services being provided to both employees and users is all to brainwash you into a cult. It makes you feel warm inside, so delighted to be here, not ever wanting to leave... considering that Discord was under FBI investigation for all the data thieves using their platform to facilitate child grooming, I honestly wouldn't be surprised.

I think Cr1TiKaL put it best when he talked about how Discord not taking itself seriously bleeds out into more stuff than it needs to. You can have an adorable mascot and not have your marketing and change logs be fart noises. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to goof off a lot and not make everything so damn sterile, and having inflatable pool toys available as an option can make for a more tolerable work environment... but so can three hour shifts. 80% of an eight hour shift being devoted to making claymations out of boogers as a side project does not change the fact it's still an eight hour shift. Better than twelve, but still not ideal.

Where Do We Go Now?

You might be thinking right now, "fucking hell, first Kugee moved from YouTube to Vlare, then he made this website to kill off his Twitter, and now he wants to get off of Discord? Why can't he just fall in line with the tried and true corporations???" While I fully intend to create an IRC server, we will unfortunately have to stick to Discord for now, as it remains better than all the other live conversation services out there if you want public voice/video chat venues.

When a platform is too "good" or has too much of a strangehold on an industry, how do we escape the nightmare? What we're really gonna need in the long run is a new platform. I'd love to create a real time chat client/server application that does some of what Discord does much better and have it run on Windows 95 and NT 3.51... if only I knew how!!! If enough people say they'd want something like that, I might try to dive into that idea, but I'm sure it'll be a mess. The most I've ever done is character mode programming.

I have respect for those who make strong efforts to push back against big tech, even if I have my own gripes with these people elsewhere. I know someone who made a website with a fully functional chat service, proving that HTML5 can be used for something that isn't a mountain of garbage. I can't be bothered to name it, but I do think more people should be making efforts to move away from shady platforms. The internet has made this perfectly possible, and yet we've chosen not to do it... did we just let our guards down, or were we hit by nuclear blasts?

Addendum: we don't just want a better chat client that doesn't data mine the living shit out of us, we NEED it. Remember, many schools are using Discord to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, providing online classes for their students. I'm sure many teachers would have a strong beef with Discord if they knew their classes were being sold to advertising agencies, after all they've done to fight for not having surveillance camers installed in their classrooms.

Moreover, the majority of grade school students are obviously under 18. If the same centralized platform used for education can be exploited by some creepy fucker to talk to these children in private, a disaster is bound to happen, and might be in the process of happening right now. That's why it would be more ideal to have a program handy where a district can operate their own chat servers using a ready-made spyware-free solution and restrict membership to staff, teachers, and students... assuming their own staff is all clean, of course. You can never really trust anyone.

Also read this: http://stallman.org/discord.html