Discord launched in 2015, when social media giants Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter dominated the social landscape and attracted the largest shares of online audiences worldwide. Despite the competition, Discord was able to grow steadily, reaching 300 million registered users in 2020, a 20 percent year-over-year increase from the 250 million users the platform recorded in 2019. By January 2023, the platform was estimated to have reached over 560 million registered users.
In a time when the leading social media platforms were redirecting their efforts towards building mobile-first experiences, Discord represented the exception, launching as a browser app. This maximized the possibility for users to join the platform from virtually any device but also helped to onboard new users without the need to download a program on their computer and still finding themselves just one click away from their friends. As of January 2023, Discord was estimated to have reached approximately 154 million monthly active users (MAU), growing by less than three percent compared to the 150 million MAU reported by the company in September 2021.
The gamers-first communication platformSince its launch, Discord was able to tailor its services to the needs of the online gaming community by providing an embedded voice and chat system that allowed gamers to interact while playing, still leaving them the possibility to abandon the game or browse the web without opting out of the conversation. Users can create their own invite-only servers and add separate channels for video and voice chats, as well as bots to help manage other users and content. Discord users can also browse the platform and join theme or topic-based servers, which range from music to online activism, and of course gaming. Discord partners with several official video games and gaming content platforms such as Twitch.
However, since 2019, Discord operated a through rebranding that came to see the company associated with more tech-savvy consumers and innovative collaborative spaces. As of January 2023, Discord’s largest server was the Midjourney community, with over 9.5 million registered users. Midjourney is a text-to-image AI-powered project launched exclusively on Discord first by the homonymous U.S.-based lab in July 2022. Since release, users have been able to join the Midjourney Discord server to create a limited set of AI-generated images for free, or even buy a subscription to the product.
Additionally, the platform hosts a plurality of servers focusing on training and educational material, with English-language study server “English” counting over 612 thousand members as of January 2023.
No ads, ever: How does Discord make money?Discord prides itself on not relying on online ads, as the platform monetizes directly via users’ support. In 2017, the platform launched Discord Nitro, a premium subscription plan that allows users to access several perks including high-quality video, custom emotes, and Gif avatars starting from 4.99 U.S. dollars per month. Server Boosting, introduced in 2019, allows users to add special features to their communities, including better live streaming quality and custom stickers. In 2022, the Discord platform generated 213 million U.S. dollars in revenues from its mobile app alone. The United States represents Discord’s largest market, with 60 percent of the company’s lifetime mobile in-app revenues being generated in the country. The United Kingdom and Canada followed, with six and five percent of the company’s in-app revenues generated in the two countries, respectively.
Discord Inc. funding and valuationWhile the company has not publicly shared its revenue and profitability numbers, as of March 2022, Discord had secured approximately 995 million U.S. dollars in funding across 16 rounds, with its series H round in September 2021 bringing the company 500 million U.S. dollars from investors. In December 2020, Discord Inc. was valued at seven billion U.S. dollars, but after its 2021 funding rounds, the company reached a valuation of 14.7 billion U.S. dollars.
With the fears over the upcoming recession taking over and the impact of online advertising regulations, several social media platforms and digital companies have seen their valuation decrease in the first half of 2022. In June 2022, Discord saw its share value cut by over 30 percent by Fidelity Investments, which now values the company at 373.65 U.S. dollars a share. The company, which rejected a 12 billion U.S. dollar acquisition offer by Microsoft in April 2021, has been reported to be looking into entering the public market in the next years.