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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

Suspect in FedEx shooting identified as 19-year-old former FedEx employee Brandon Hole

Crime scene investigators walk through the FedEx parking lot in Indianapolis the day after a mass shooting left nine dead, including the gunman, who took his own life. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images.

The suspected gunman in Thursday's mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility that left at least eight people dead and multiple others wounded, has been identified by local police as 19-year-old Brandon Hole, a former employee of FedEx, a company spokesperson Bonny Harrison told the AP.

The latest: Law enforcement has not yet uncovered the shooter's motive. Police Chief Randal Taylor said Friday morning that the warehouse employed a "significant" number of Sikhs, AP reports, and the Sikh Coalition confirmed that members of its community were among those who were injured and killed.

The legacy of Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff, architect of the largest Ponzi scheme in American history, died on Wednesday in federal prison, 11 years into his 150-year sentence.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Madoff’s crimes, what they revealed about America's financial system and what changed after the scheme came crashing down with Diana B. Henriques, author of the The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Russia to expel 10 U.S diplomats, ban top Biden officials in response to sanctions

Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Russia will expel 10 U.S. diplomats and add eight current and former U.S. officials to its no-entry list in retaliation for sanctions that the Biden administration leveled at Moscow on Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

Why it matters: The measures come after the U.S. said it would expel 10 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover, as part of a broad package of sanctions retaliating against the SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and Russia's interference in the 2020 election.