It’s not that Mumble or TeamSpeak aren’t still good options, it’s just that Discord has made such an appealing service that I’m not sure why I would ever want to go back. The voice quality is crisper and clearer thanks to a more modern voice engine than what’s used by the now decade-and-a-half-old choices like TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, and Discord is also significantly more lightweight. You don’t need to host a server, download a program, or even sign up for an account; you just send a link out to the people you want to join, and they’re there.
This means Discord uses very little processing power, even in browser, because it’s technically only connecting to a single peer. Additionally, it lets the program hide your IP address, especially important when compared to the DDoS problems Skype has faced (Riot Games has a whole section about Skype in its DDoS Prevention Guide.) “We had one streamer whose home internet was on DDoS for a whole week and Comcast wouldn’t change their IP address, all because their Skype name showed up on stream,” Citron recalled. Discord also has a “Streamer Mode” that hides information in your client to make sure it isn’t broadcasted accidentally.
And the Twitch community has rallied around Discord in a surprising way, with big streamers setting up their own servers for their communities. Discord has the Twitch API integrated into it, so users can connect directly with their Twitch accounts, with the channel’s sub emotes automatically being imported into Discord’s text chat. Citron said he “had a hunch that it would be useful for streamers,” as many already had TeamSpeak servers, but thought “Discord should be better for that.”
Like Citron said, there are still areas Discord can be improved. I don’t like that you can’t minimize images or YouTube videos posted into the text chat without turning them off altogether, which means chat logs can get buried under a few links shared at once. And if a friend decides not to create an account when joining your channel through an instant invite, the temporary account they created will remain in the ‘Offline’ user list until you manually kick it—I once had four different versions of a friend populating the user list before I forced them to make an account. But these are minor usability problems when compared to manually having to set up a server and share an IP address, or dealing with the uncooperative headache that is Skype.
Citron told me he and his team decided to build Discord after having a realization about the defacto VoIP choices, TeamSpeak and Skype, saying “they’re old, they’re clunky, they don’t work very well, and we just thought we could do it better.” After using Discord for the better part of the 12 months it’s been available, I am inclined to agree. Discord has done it better, and PC gaming is better off for it.