Deleting Discriminators to End Discrimination

tldr: Discord, Inc. has released a completely rushed and unfinished feature which rebuilds how users identify themselves. We believe Discord's reasoning for this was to send a message about identification and inclusivity in a post-diversity world, before this year's Pride. Unfortunately, staff members have abused their position to reserve popular usernames – in an act of exclusivity, rather than inclusivity.

The operators of Discord Inc. are committed to creating a safe and inclusive "invite-only" space for everyone. On Discord, hanging out is easy! At least, that is according to the $15 billion company's landing page. The platform, once utilized by a small niche of online creators, has exploded in popularity over recent years. A substantial part of this growth should be attributed to Discord's efforts at expanding the reach of their platform beyond gaming communities, seeking to entrench themselves to academia and business as well as undercut competitors with a free offering (Teams, Slack, et cetera).

As part of this expansion, Discord will be removing discriminators, the four-digit tag that follows a user's name. Although many have made this a central part of their identity (consider infamous users such as 1234#5678, Danny#0007, b1nzy#1337, etc.), with the ability to choose the number being a flagship feature of Discord's Nitro subscription plan, in preparation for this year's Pride month, Discord will be forcing reidentification on their users and removing this scary number.

As a reader, you may wonder what exactly is so poor about this system. Of course, the answer is that discriminators literally provide a method to discriminate between two similarly named individuals – if you meet two people named Tom, for instance, you are likely to tell them apart based on physical attributes. You might call one Big Tom and the other Little Tom, or call one White Tom and the other Black Tom. For commonly named individuals, this kind of one-or-the-other discrimination encountered in the real world can leave life-long trauma. So just imagine, then, signing up for a Discord account using your preferred name, and finding that you are Tom#7523. Years of life-long name-trauma will come rushing back to you in that instance, as you are reminded that your identity, Tom, is not unique. You are not special. You are one of many.

Furthermore, what happens when there are more than 9999 Tom's registered on Discord? While this wasn't a conceivable issue when the company was catering only to the niches of the internet, the rapid expansion into academia and business has meant that certain "name spaces" have become full, no longer accepting new users. That's not inclusive.

Other "name spaces" are set to be closed off to make way for other profit-driving features, which has left certain cohorts in a bit of a pickle. Discord has long struggled with users impersonating its staff, developing "system accounts" to communicate important messages through the platform. Now, Discord is trying to make money off of the AI wave by launching its "Clyde" bot account. The only problem? Users already had the name Clyde. Of course, the operators of Discord have no problem just disabling any further use of this name. But for the existing Clyde's, Discord has been a buggy and unusable experience, preventing certain actions like setting nicknames or profile pictures. We anticipate that these users will be fully expelled from their identity as the new username system is rolled out.

Discord's Explanation

Discord's Official Blog Post

Discord's new system allows for users to have a global nickname of sorts while having one unique username per user. They have gotten rid of case sensitivity, being that HotDog is the same as hotdog now. They also got rid of the discriminator system, which apparently 40%+ of Discord's userbase do not understand what it is per Discord themselves. There are in fact benefits of this system but the entire roll out has been awful and uncommunicative, which at this point Discord has proven to be the best at. This change was completely secret until Discord made an official blog post about it on May 3rd, 2023. On May 5th and May 10th, they updated the roll out process and add clarifications. The roll out started on May 17th. Within 2 weeks of announcing this major change to the platform they started the process.

Discord's New Username Restrictions

Early Roll Out Woes

The blog post outlined which users get access to the new system first, allowing them to lock in their usernames before anyone else. They announced that the following order will be in place:

1. Owners of partner and verified servers.
2. Then all users based on the age of their account in the coming months, starting with 2015 as well as current Nitro users who subscribed on or before March 1, 2023.

Unofficially though, Discord staff members got access before partner/verified server owners. This includes both their personal and work accounts. Also, there is no limitation in place to force their work accounts to have a unique ending, such as .discord. Some staff members went ahead and chose very common names as well as unseated reserved names, something we'll get into later, from other accounts.

Out of the blue, Discord staff members gained access on May 17th. Owners of partner and verified servers gained access on May 18th.

Discord Staff Member steve also reserved the name taco on his alternate account. We do not wish to imply fraudulent intentions, but Steve surely has a lot to gain from posessing such a coveted username.

There are also cases of Discord Staff choosing inappropriate usernames on their personal accounts. Discord Staff member yayvery (129215948258410496) chose a very inappropriate name for their personal account, xxfaggotxx (885366844599435274), but quickly changed it to alsoavery after it was questioned by a user. Just weeks before Pride 2023, this is a despicable action, and we hope to see more accountability from Discord. After all, deleting discriminators is supposed to help with the problem of discrimination...

Unfortunately, for some owners of partnered and verified servers, the roll out did not go according to plan. Many of these owners did not gain access due to what we may only assume was a bug on Discord's end (again, we do not wish to imply malicious intent or profiteering, and Discord has been known for rolling out untested features without fear of consequence). There are also cases of users who do not own a current partnered or verified server gaining access to the new system. As of May 21st, the owners who did not gain access still do not have access.

Pictured is a user whose server was removed from partnership several years prior, but was still invited to the early access name reservation program.

A Secretive System of Name Reservations

Detailed information about the upcoming move from DiscordTags to usernames
by u/5364578106 in discordapp
Concerned users turned to the r/discordapp subreddit to seek more information about the move to usernames.

In the blog post Discord has created, they mention "We will be assigning priority to choose your new username based on when you registered for Discord, Nitro status, and ownership of partner and verified servers.". We were not given any details about names being reserved for certain accounts, only that users would progressively get earlier access to the system. Once the rollout began, users realized that there is a completely secret reservation system that wasn't announced. The system looks to take your current Discord username and tries to reserve a lowercase version of that. For instance, Hot Dog#9281 would be reserved under the name hotdog. The Discord community believes that this name reservation system works as a priority-based system, where older accounts are given precedence over newer accounts. Put simply, if Hot Dog#9281 registered their account in 2016, and Hot Dog#0001 registered in 2015, Hot Dog#0001 will be given first pick for hotdog , while Hot Dog#9281 will default to hotdog9281.

But, this reservation is imperfect. Note that the Discord Tag system respected whitespace, while the new username system will not. So if there are two similarly named users, e.g. Hot Dog#9281 and HotDog#9281, then one of them will simply get no reservation at all. It is unclear at this time which username would receive priority.

Our current understanding of the default-reservation system, based on data collected from the community, is an ordering as follows:

  1. Large Discord Bots
  2. Discord Staff
  3. Partners and Verified Server Owners

We note that Discord has not made an effort to reserve vanity usernames for high-profile users. According to a post on r/discordapp, names such as "pewdiepie", "markiplier", "queen", "muse", and "ksi" did not hold any reservation. As such, it is possible for these names to be taken by impersonators and used to exploit high-profile personalities.

Most Discord users thought they would be competing with other users to lock in a cool username, but that seems to be out the window. You have to rely on what Discord reserved for you without your knowledge, or hope you can pick a similar name before your identity is completely taken by someone else.

Our Verdict

The idea of a username-only system is not completely rooted in error. The case sensitivity and numeric tag of the current system can make sharing your Discord profile in a verbal conversation difficult — for instance, say you made a new friend while out in public. It's much easier to tell someone to add "@12345678" then "1234#5678", or "@tombradyfan2002" instead of "Tom Brady Fan#0012".

But with that in mind, Discord's implementation of this new system felt rushed and unfinished. The community was informed just mere weeks before staff began to reserve their own accounts, and their feedback regarding the change fell on deaf ears. While the idea behind this new system makes some sense, its execution is borderline pitiful. A lack of transparency over the timeline of the rollout, as well as no communication over the name reservation system, has left many users feeling as if they can no longer trust Discord to be a stable platform for their communities.

As of the writing of this article, Discord has not made any public communications or acknowledgements regarding the problematic rollout. As crucial as usernames and brand identities are on the modern web (see: the verified Twitter fiasco), a clear timeline for the rollout should have been announced. Discord staff should not have been given early access to the feature on the public environment and should have usernames which are clearly distinct from the rest of the public namespace.

With yet another PR fiasco, we have to question the competency of the leadership suite at Discord. Is a public offering on the table? An acquisition? Content creators who base their livelihoods out of this platform should seriously begin considering questions, as Discord's foolish decisions undermine the safety and stability of their brand identities.