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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Discord began in 2015 as a way for gamers to talk to one another before, during, and after play. Now, the chat company is pursuing a far broader vision: to be the Slack for your non-work life.

Why it matters: In the age of COVID-19, more than ever before, people need the online equivalent of social spaces like bars, restaurants and stages.

How it works: 

  • Discord allows people to create their own online community space, to set and enforce rules and decide whether to remain invite-only or open it to the public.
  • Users can share messages in various channels, chat privately and have group discussions. More recently, the company has added group video chat.
  • Discord calls each community's space a "server," but it's not a server in the sense of a separate computer controlled by the user. Users can run servers without needing system-administrator knowhow.
  • This arrangement has pros and cons. It means Discord controls the data and is responsible for complying with law enforcement. But it also means the service can enforce its own code of conduct, handling trust, safety and security.

What they're saying: "We view it as mostly a benefit," CEO Jason Citron told Axios. "It gives us the ability to ensure that Discord is a safe place to talk."

Flashback: When the site realized after the 2017 Charlottesville rally that white supremacists were using the chat platform to organize, Discord acted quickly and publicly, Citron said. "We wanted to make clear Discord would be a hostile place for extremist behavior."

The big picture: Citron said Discord is trying to enable online social spaces that can serve different functions.

  • In the real world, an auditorium looks quite different from a classroom from a coffee shop, with each design offering cues to how the space is used.
  • Discord, which has more than 100 million monthly active users, is trying to create similar types of spaces online.
  • In part to fuel that expanded vision, Discord raised $100 million in June, led by Index Ventures, valuing the company at a reported $3.5 billion.

What's next: At the top of Citron's list is getting more people outside the gaming world to know about Discord.

  • "It is a new way to talk and spend time," he said. "If you don't really dive into it you can miss the magic of the service."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  3. Education: Devos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31
  4. States: New Mexico to allow hospitals to ration coronavirus medical care
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
2 hours ago - Health

A safe, sane survival guide

Photo: Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

We all know, it’s getting worse.

Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months:

Biden's debut nightmare

President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington on Nov. 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A dim, gloomy scene seems increasingly set for Joe Biden's debut as president.

The state of play: He'll address — virtually — a virus-weary nation, with record-high daily coronavirus deaths, a flu season near its peak, restaurants and small businesses shuttered by wintertime sickness and spread.