What is Discord?

Voice and Text Chat For Gamers, No Download Required

Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / EyeEm / Getty

Discord is a free voice and text chat app that combines the voice chat aspects of services like Skype and Teamspeak with the text chat aspects of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and various instant messaging services. It's available as a standalone app for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS, and you can also access all of the same features through a web-based app that runs in browsers like Chrome and Firefox.

What is Discord For?

Discord is billed as chat for gamers, because it was introduced as a free alternative to voice chat services like TeamSpeak, Mumble, and Ventrilo. These services all exist to facilitate Voice over IP (VoIP) communication between members of gaming clans, guilds, and other groups. Instead of using the voice communication built into games, which is often lower quality, lacking features, or missing altogether, gamers use these services to communicate both in and out of game.

The downside of most VoIP services is that they require a server, which usually isn't free. There are exceptions, such as hosting companies providing a free VoIP server when a regular game server is rented, but there is usually some cost associated with running a TeamSpeak, Mumble, or Ventrilo server.

Discord offers a similar service, with a similar set of features, at no cost. The Discord app is free to download, signing up for a Discord account is free, and anyone can create a Discord server for free.

Discord does offer a premium service called Discord Nitro. Paying for this premium service comes with perks like larger image uploads and the ability to choose the numbers that are otherwise added to your Discord username at random.

How to Get Started With Discord

Getting started with Discord is extremely easy, and you don't even need to sign up to use it. If you're playing a game, and a group invites you to their Discord to facilitate communication during an especially difficult or competitive raid or match, you can jump right in even if you don't have an account.

how to get started on discord

To get started with Discord, you need to create a temporary account. You can register this account to make it permanent, or discard it when you're done.

Here's how to make a Discord account:

  1. Navigate to Discordapp.com.
  2. Click or tap Open Discord in your browser.
  3. Type your desired username, and click or tap on the arrow.
    1. Note: Unlike many other services, your username doesn't need to be unique. It will be combined with a four digit number to differentiate it from other users who use the same name.
  4. Check the box where it says I am not a robot, and complete the captcha if one is presented.
  5. Click or tap Skip to immediately start using Discord, or Get Started for a tutorial.
  6. Enter your email and password and click Claim Account to register your account, or click outside the popup to skip this step.

At this point, you are ready to use Discord. If someone gave you an invitation link to a server, you can click on it to join their server.

Important: If you don't finalize your account creation, the account will be lost when you close your browser. Click or tap on Claim Account, enter your email address, and then follow the instructions in the email to make your account permanent.

Discord Web App Vs. Desktop App

Discord is available as a web app that runs in most modern browsers, and you can also download it for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. The desktop and web versions of Discord are functionally identical in almost every way, and they even look almost exactly the same.

discord web app

There are a few differences between the browser and desktop versions of Discord, but they are both viable options. Here are the main differences:

  • Discord desktop app
    • Push-to-talk enabled all the time.
    • Anecdotal evidence shows better performance.
    • Shows your friends what game you're playing, with the option to turn this feature off.
  • Discord web app
    • Push-to-talk only works when the browser window is in focus.
    • While playing a game, push-to-talk is unavailable.
    • Doesn't require a download, so you can use it anywhere, on any computer, without waiting to download and install anything.

If you use Discord a lot, it's worth downloading the desktop app. The web app is great though, because it lowers the bar for entry.

For instance, if you're playing a game with your friends or clan mates, and you want to invite an outside player into voice chat with a service like TeamSpeak or Mumble, they have to download and configure the app, create an account, and enter your server information. With Discord, all they have to do is click your invite link, type a temporary username if they don't already have one, and they're ready to go.

Discord Mobile App

In addition to the desktop and web apps, Discord is also available as an app for both iOS and Android.

discord mobile app

The Discord mobile app has a very similar look to the desktop app, but it's modified to work on smaller screens. When you're on a server, you can swipe right to see a list of the voice and text channels, and swipe left to see a list of all the members of the server.

Voice chat on the mobile Discord app works just like the desktop app, so you can use it to communicate with your friends or teammates if you're playing on a console that doesn't support Discord, and your computer is too far away to use.

You have all of the same abilities to adjust the volume of other users, mute people so you can't hear them at all, and both mute and deafen yourself if you don't want your friends to hear what's going on in your house, or you need to step away from the keyboard (AFK) for a while.

Here's where you can get the mobile Discord app:

How to Join a Server on Discord

Joining Discord servers is easy, but there's no central list of servers that you can look through. To join a Discord server, you need a member or admin of that server to give you a link. Some servers have permanent links, and others only invite via one-time use links that expire within a day.

how to join discord server

If you have a friend with a Discord server that you want to join, ask for an invite. If you're a member of a community that uses Discord, you can ask for an invite, or look on the community website, subreddit, forum, wiki or wherever else you think a permanent link might be stored.

Another way to find Discord communities is to run a query on your favorite search engine. For instance, if you play Final Fantasy XIV, you would search for:

final fantasy xiv discord server

If you have a link to a Discord server, you can click the link or join through the Discord app. Here's how to join through the Discord app:

  1. Launch Discord.
  2. Click or tap the + button at the bottom of your server list.
  3. Click or tap Join a Server.
  4. Enter your invite link, and click or tap Join.
  5. You will then join the server.

If you decide that you want to leave a server, that's also easy:

  1. Launch Discord.
  2. Left click the server you want to leave to select it.
    1. Note: This isn't strictly necessary, but it does help prevent accidentally selecting the wrong server.
  3. Right click the server you want to leave.
  4. Click Leave Server.
  5. Click Leave Server again to confirm.

How to Create a Server on Discord

Creating servers on Discord is easy and free. This feature is available to everyone, so there's nothing stopping you from making a server for your friends, whether there are just a few of you, or you have a huge clan or guild.

how to create a server on discord

To create a server on Discord, you first need an account. After you have created your account, log in to Discord on whichever platform you like, and you're ready to create a server:

  1. Click the + at the bottom of your server list.
  2. Click Create a Server.
  3. Enter a server name, select a region for the server, and click Create.

This will finalize the creation process, and your server will be ready to go immediately.

To invite people, click Invite People to generate an invitation link, and make sure to check the box where it says Set this link to never expire if you want to create a permanent link for your community.

You can also invite friends, and people from other servers, by right clicking on their user icon and selecting Invite to server > Your server.

If you decide that you don't want your server anymore, here's how to delete it:

  1. Click your server in the server list.
  2. Click the down arrow next to your server name.
  3. Click Server Settings.
  4. Click Delete Server.
  5. Enter the server name, and click Delete Server to confirm.

You cannot undo a server deletion. Before you delete your Discord server, make absolutely certain that you really want to delete it.

How to Add Friends on Discord

Discord is more fun with friends, and there are several ways that you can add them. There is no way to search for friends by email addresses or usernames, so you will need to either have someone's full discord tag or be friends with them on another platform before you can add them on Discord.

how to add friends on Discord

When you sign up for Discord, you enter a username. This is only part of your Discord tag. In addition to the name you choose, discord adds four digits in this format:

Username#1234

If you have your friend's full Discord tag, including the numbers, then you can send a friend request:

  1. Launch Discord.
  2. Click the Discord icon (home menu) in the upper right corner.
  3. Click Add Friend.
  4. Enter your friend's full Discord tag, and click Send Friend Request.
  5. Your friend will appear in the Pending tab until they accept the request.

Finding Friends on Discord From Other Services

Discord also allows you to link your Discord account with other accounts, like Battle.net, Steam, and Reddit. You don't have to link accounts, but doing so makes it easier to find your friends. Linking some accounts, like Xbox One, also enables the ability for your friends to see what you're playing on the other platform.

connect accounts friends discord

To link accounts on Discord, click Connect Accounts on the Add Friend screen. This gives you the option to select the type of account you want to connect. You can also choose which connected accounts you want to display on your Discord profile.

When you link your accounts, Discord will automatically pull your friends list from the other service and check to see if any of your friends are on Discord. If it finds anyone, you will have the option to send a friend request.

Discord Calls and Screen Sharing

In addition to servers, Discord also supports direct messages (DMs) to communicate privately with friends, and group direct messages to communicate with small groups of friends. These exist separately from servers, so you and your friends don't need to be members of the same server to use this feature.

discord group dm screen share

Here's how to create a group DM with your friends for private voice chat, video chat, and even screen sharing:

  1. Launch Discord.
  2. Click the Discord icon (home menu).
  3. Click Friends.
  4. Click the New Group DM icon in the upper right corner of the app.
  5. Select friends to invite to the group DM.
  6. Click Create Group DM.
  7. Click the Start Voice Call (phone) icon, or the Start Video Call (video camera) icon to start a voice or video call.
  8. With a voice or video call in progress, click the video camera icon to turn on your webcam, or the turn on screen share (computer monitor) icon to share your screen.
  9. If you choose to share your screen, you can click the name of the game you are currently playing, or click Share Screen or Window to share a different window, app, or your entire desktop.
  10. Click Leave Call to end the call when you are done.

Up to 10 people can participate in a Discord group DM at once, so it's a good way for small groups to communicate without the need to create a separate server. If you want to have more than 10 people in a call at one time, you will need to create a voice channel on a Discord server and use that instead.