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Discord's username change is causing discord

Discord's username change is causing discord

The race to reserve a username on Discord is on.

Over the next few weeks, millions of Discord users will be forced to say goodbye to their old four-digit added names. Discord needs everyone to have a new common platform-wide handle. For Discord, it's a step back toward mainstream social network conventions. For some users, though, it's a change at the core of Discord — a change that's as much about culture as technology.

Discord has historically handled usernames with a numerical suffix system. Instead of requiring completely unique handles, it allowed duplicate names by adding a four-digit code known as a "distinguisher" — think TheVerge#1234. But earlier this week, it announced it was changing course and moving toward unique identifiers that resemble Twitter-style "@" handles.

Co-founder and CTO Stanisław Wisniewski acknowledged that the change would be "difficult" for some people, but added that the discriminators had proved too confusing. He said that more than 40 percent of users don't know their discriminator number, which is why "about half" of all friend requests fail to connect people to the right person, mainly because of the wrong number.

On Reddit, Wisniewski argued that the new handles would not even appear in the interface, as Discord often allows users to set a different display name that is not unique. Taking over 500 downvotes on some Reddit answers, he called the original system a "half measure" and rejected ideas such as adding more numbers to the end of the handle. "This was not a change we decided to make lightly and have been talking about doing for many years, trying to avoid it if we could."

During the transition, Discord users will have to navigate a process that is fraught with uncertainty and fierce competition. Users will have to wait for an in-app prompt when it's their turn to select a new username, which will eventually roll out to all users over the course of "several months". The company will prioritize users based on their Discord registration dates, so those with "longer" names have a better chance of getting their names.

Users are forced to choose a generic handle to avoid the possibility of impersonation

It raises a lot of obvious fears and thorny questions. Depending on who sets up their username first, is there anything stopping people from taking on a particularly popular creator's unique name? Should this prevent Discord from having usernames for well-known creators, even if they are not first in line? This is a problem for a lot of social networks, but unlike some new services that attract new users, all of these people are already on Discord — in some cases, they're probably even paid subscribers.

In a statement to The Verge, Discord said it will be trying to gracefully navigate the change for its most famous users. "We created processes for high-visibility users to secure usernames that would allow them to operate on our platform with minimal risk of impersonation," said Kellynn Sloan, director of product communications. "Users with an ongoing business relationship with Discord that manage certain partner, verified, or creator servers will be able to choose a username before other users to reduce the risk of impersonation of their accounts."

A lot of Discord users will be outside those limits. "As a content creator who has a relatively large fanbase - my handle has been subject to username sniping by someone with an older account than mine," artist zestylemons, who uses Discord to connect with fans, told The told The Verge. Let's write "I'm not a Discord partner, nor am I famous for being one, so I won't have any protection from my public handle." ZestyLemons notes that people who get the desirable name are at risk of being swatted or threatened with leaving it — something that has happened on Instagram and Twitter.

Discord users understand right now that there are a lot of accounts with very similar names, separated only by random numbers at the end. But absolute names change that understanding. They encourage people to find trusted usernames - if someone just and only @verge (our Twitter handle) takes over Discord, people might believe it's us.

And it prompts people to treat their Discord names like part of a centralized identity — rather than, as many users have referred to them, like a personal phone number. This forces individuals to pick a username that reflects them elsewhere before anyone else does. This links anyone in Discord to their internet-wide identity, with all the potential downsides—like being stalked or a simple sense of risk—that are necessary.

Despite fears of individual users impersonating each other, the risks of server moderation are less clear — and some Discord server administrators told The Verge they weren't worried. “I don't think the change will be a big deal for Admin + Mod,” says Emily, an admin for a large Pokémon Go meetup group on Discord. Servers already ask people to set server-specific nicknames that match their Pokémon Go trainer name, so they're not relying on discriminators to tell people apart.

But Emily isn't a fan of change. "It's strange that Discord is giving in to normal social media norms," he said. "The discriminators were a bit clever ... It allows multiple people to share the same name without insisting on the 'perfect' username. Discord is a more personal type of social media. You can publish publicly in the ether. aren't - like Twitter or something - so having a clever memorable username doesn't matter.

"Sites that use handles and display names like Twitter have very different reasons why they use those systems."

SupaIsaiah016, an avid Geometry Dash player who also runs a small Discord server, agrees. SupaIsaiah016 writes to The Verge, "The existing username and discriminator system worked perfectly fine, allowing thousands of people on the platform to have the same name." "Sites that use handles and display names like Twitter have very different reasons why they use those systems than they do public social media."

Part of the problem is simply that Discord is asking millions of systematic users to make a major change to their online identity, and there's no great way to do it without friction. But there's also a sense that Discord's out-of-date username style made it a distinct, albeit clunky, social network. And for many users, that was part of the appeal.

"We value the freedom of anonymity in discord."

ZestyLemons writes, "Discord was originally a messaging app for which a lot of content creators used to separate their online lives versus their real, personal lives." Verge reader SpookyMulder put it another way in the comments to our original news post. SpookyMulder writes, “Discord has some sort of pseudo-identity culture.” "We value the freedom of anonymity in Discord more than your typical social media @username identity."

Whether you're a Discord user who wants to maintain a sense of anonymity or one who yearns for a more shareable and easily identifiable system, the race is on to find the right username for you. But you will have to wait and see where the starting line is.

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