Discord forces members to change usernames, discord erupts

May 9, 2023, 11:46 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The social app Discord, a favorite of gamers, inadvertently stirred internal strife after announcing last week that it will force its millions of members to pick new usernames. Now the question is whether that the change will escalate into all-out warfare that could include players threatening one another in order to seize control of popular names.

The issue may sound trivial compared to real-life concerns such as mass shootings and killer storms. But it’s a big deal for people who rely on the mid-sized social network to recruit fellow gamers, swap virtual weapons and organize strategy in multiplayer games. A Reddit thread on the change drew more than 4,000 comments, the vast majority of them angry or at least unhappy.


Discord users have long been free to choose any name they wanted, even ones already in use. That was part of the company’s aim to let users represent themselves freely, according to a detailed May 3 blog post by Discord co-founder and chief technology officer Stanislav Vishnevskiy. The approach differed from social platforms such as Twitter, which has always required users to select unique names.

Discord assigned each username an invisible four-digit identifier to distinguish them from duplicates. But as Discord grew, the San Francisco-based company decided to expand its messaging system — initially limited to conversations within shared groups it calls “servers” — to the entire platform. To help people to find their friends across servers, Discord made those four-digit codes a visible part of usernames. If your username was “SgtRock,” you might have suddenly found yourself with the handle “SgtRock#1842.”

That, too, seemed to work for a while. But according to Vishnevskiy’s post, more than 40% of Discord users either don’t remember their four-digit codes — variously known as “tags” or “discriminators” in Discord-speak — or know what they are in the first place. Almost half of all friend requests on Discord fail to reach the correct person, the executive wrote.


Two changes are taking place simultaneously. In the coming weeks, Vishnevskiy wrote, Discord will start notifying users via an in-app message when they’re cleared to select a new username. Server owners will get priority, followed by users based on the age of their accounts. Paid subscribers to a Discord service that lets them customize their discriminators (among other benefits) will also get “early access,” although neither Vishnevskiy’s post nor Discord’s user documentation offer details.

At the same time, Discord is also allowing users to pick a non-exclusive “display name” of their choosing. This will be displayed prominently on user profiles, but unlike the username, it won’t be used for messaging.

All of this will “roll out slowly over the course of several months,” per the Discord announcements.


Some gamers take their usernames extremely seriously, viewing them as unique and personal extensions of their identity, not to mention pillars of their online reputations. Many also don’t appreciate changes being thrust upon them. In the Reddit thread, complaints range from “don’t fix what isn’t broken” to accusations that the changes are mostly designed to attract new and often younger users who might be put off by the complexity of the existing system.

That might not be far from the truth, experts suggest. Social platforms tend to be heavily used by a small group and very lightly used by a much larger group, said Drew Margolin, a Cornell University professor of communications. In a commercial sense, he said, “there’s this tension between what would be appealing to a larger market and what are the main users.”

Margolin suggests that network effects — that is, the fact that users and their friends are already on Discord, making it difficult to leave — will most likely outweigh the current outrage, whose impact is difficult to assess. But there’s still a potential for serious blowback, as some gamers have been known to go to extreme lengths to obtain coveted usernames.


Gamers warn that the move could create a black market in desirable names or even spark dangerous threats to force their surrender. Such threats can range from online harassment campaigns to “swatting” — the highly dangerous practice of making fake crime reports to police in order to provoke an armed law enforcement response at an opponent’s home.

Swatting can lead to injuries and deaths — sometimes of people unconnected to whatever online feud provoked the action. In 2017, an innocent man was fatally shot by Wichita police responding to a hoax call reporting a kidnapping and shooting. The call was make by a California man named Tyler Barriss, who authorities said was recruited by another gamer to make the call. But the address Barriss used was old, leading police to to a person who wasn’t involved in the video game or the dispute.

Barriss pled guilty to making multiple false emergency calls across the U.S. and in 2019 was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

United States News

File - Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, takes part in a discussion at the Asia-Pacific Ec...

Associated Press

Google antitrust trial focused on Android app store payments to be handed off to jury to decide

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal court jury is poised begin its deliberations in an antitrust trial focused on whether Google’s efforts to profit from its app store for Android smartphones have been illegally gouging consumers and stifling innovation. Before the nine-person jury in San Francisco starts weighing the evidence Monday, the lawyers on the […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Israel battles militants in Gaza’s main cities, with civilians still trapped in the crossfire

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants in Gaza’s two largest cities on Monday, with civilians still trapped in the fighting even after hundreds of thousands have fled to other parts of the besieged territory. Israel has pledged to keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, dismantles its military capabilities and […]

5 hours ago

The OnlyFans logo is seen on a computer monitor in this posed photo, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in St....

Associated Press

Teachers have been outed for moonlighting in adult content. Do they have legal recourse?

At a small rural Missouri high school, two English teachers shared a secret: Both were posting adult content on OnlyFans, the subscription-based website known for sexually explicit content. The site and others like it provide an opportunity for those willing to dabble in pornography to earn extra money — sometimes lots of it. The money […]

8 hours ago

A gray wolf is seen in a trail camera image on the Sherman Creek Ranch, March 26, 2023, near Walden...

Associated Press

Embattled wolves gain a new frontier in Democratic Colorado. The move is stoking political tensions

DENVER, Colo. (AP) — Wildlife officials plan to release gray wolves in Colorado in coming weeks, at the behest of urban voters and to the dismay of rural residents who don’t want the predators but have waning influence in the Democratic-led state. The most ambitious wolf reintroduction effort in the U.S. in almost three decades […]

8 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about investment in rail projects, including high-speed electric ...

Associated Press

Biden heads to Philadelphia for firefighters and fundraising

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will join Philadelphia firefighters on Monday to announce federal funding that will reopen three fire companies, according to the White House. The companies — Engine 6, Ladder 1 and Ladder 11 — were decommissioned during the Great Recession. Union leaders have said the cutbacks hampered the city’s response to […]

8 hours ago

FILE - Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters as he leaves his apartment buildi...

Associated Press

Jury trial will decide how much Giuliani must pay election workers over false election fraud claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — A trial set to get underway in Washington on Monday will determine how much Rudy Giuliani will have to pay two Georgia election workers who he falsely accused of fraud while pushing Donald Trump’s baseless claims after he lost the 2020 election. The former New York City mayor has already been found […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.

Discord forces members to change usernames, discord erupts