I just joined a new group and they were all enthused about their “discord” server, saying that was how to communicate, not email. What’s a discord server and how do I get involved?
Discord is at its heart a chat server, sort of a 21st Century version of ICQ and all those ancient AOL chat rooms. The huge difference is that it’s distributed and that everyone who uses Discord ends up with a chat server of their own. Millions and millions of people, particularly given that you can easily access the service from a Playstation or Xbox gaming device in addition to the usual mobile and computing devices. Discord groups are generally prefaced with a “#” symbol and you can use the service for voice interaction in addition to text messaging.
Not only that, but Discord also supports image sharing, making it a far more visually interesting experience than that ancient ICQ software from back in the misty haze of computing history. This is one reason that Discord is also the interface of choice for the popular Midjourney AI image generation software, among many others that utilize ‘bot message tracking and analysis to enliven discussions.
Discord can also be used directly through a Web browser or you can download an app for your computer if you have a Mac or PC. There are more clients too, easily found with a quick search for “discord client” and your favorite platform (for example, Linux, ChromeOS, Android). There’s another fairly similar service called Slack that offers similar types of interaction but is much more oriented around business and software development. They’re easily confused.
FINDING DISCORD ONLINE
Start by going to Discord.com and you’ll see this bright, colorful message:
Sounds good, right? At this point, you can download the Discord client for your computer, or choose the other button and “Open Discord in your browser“. I’m going to choose the latter since I prefer to have as few apps on my computer as possible.
Time to pick a display name:
This is what other people will see and it’s important to point out that it doesn’t have to be your actual name. If you want to be “EcoWarrior90210” enter it in this field.
CREATING A DISCORD SERVER
As I said earlier, everyone gets setup with their own server, but you can ignore it if you want. After all, if you never invite anyone to join you, it’s not going to be a very interesting discussion spot. Here’s the prompt you’ll see:
Notice at the very bottom that, again, it prompts “Have an invite already? Join a server”. Or proceed with your signup and process by clicking “Create My Own“.
I suggest that you “skip this question” so you can proceed. You can always update the settings and preferences for your server if you decide Discord is a great match for you and your colleagues or friends!
At this point you can upload a default image for the server, give it a spiffy name, whatever inspires you. Or you can just click on “Create“.
DEVELOPING YOUR DISCORD GROUP
You’re prompted to set up an initial topic, but, again, you can skip this step as desired by clicking on “Skip” on the lower left of the window:
And, finally, you’re done.
Click on “Take me to my server!” and you’ll get to what will subsequently become your home screen. It’s a bit austere:
You can see the basic options here, but I want to focus on the navbar on the left side.
FINDING OTHER DISCORD GROUPS
You can start building out your own group and inviting people (the links are pretty straightforward above) but what might not be so obvious is how to find other Discord groups, of which there are thousands. To do that, let’s focus on the left side:
Turns out that the compass needle icon is a search tool. The pop-up tip, above, explains what it offers: “Explore Discoverable Servers”. Good news! You don’t even need a search term because you can also just browse popular groups and featured communities:
You can see one of the most popular with a staggering 16 million members is “Midjourney”. Click to learn more, or try searching for your favorite movie, band, or video game to find groups of like-minded fans and enthusiasts. And that’s it, you now have the tools you need to get started with Discord. Have fun and I’ll see you online!
Tip: I’ve been writing about games and other computer basics for years here on the site. Please check out my Computer and Internet Basics for lots more tutorials on fun and interesting topics while you’re here!