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Please don’t use Discord for FOSS projects

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Software

Six years ago, I wrote a post speaking out against the use of Slack for the instant messaging needs of FOSS projects. In retrospect, this article is not very good, and in the years since, another proprietary chat fad has stepped up to bat: Discord. It’s time to revisit this discussion.

In short, using Discord for your free software/open source (FOSS) software project is a very bad idea. Free software matters — that’s why you’re writing it, after all. Using Discord partitions your community on either side of a walled garden, with one side that’s willing to use the proprietary Discord client, and one side that isn’t. It sets up users who are passionate about free software — i.e. your most passionate contributors or potential contributors — as second-class citizens.

By choosing Discord, you also lock out users with accessibility needs, for whom the proprietary Discord client is often a nightmare to use. Users who cannot afford new enough hardware to make the resource-intensive client pleasant to use are also left by the wayside. Choosing Discord is a choice that excludes poor and disabled users from your community. Users of novel or unusual operating systems or devices (i.e. innovators and early adopters) are also locked out of the client until Discord sees fit to port it to their platform. Discord also declines service to users in countries under US sanctions, such as Iran. Privacy-concious users will think twice before using Discord to participate in your project, or will be denied outright if they rely on Tor or VPNs. All of these groups are excluded from your community.

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