Social App Discord Goes the Twitter Route, Simplifies Usernames

Discord’s numeric branding system will be replaced by a more standard, @-based system


The good old days of Discord users being branded by numbers are on the way out. Now, get ready for Discord to feel a lot more like the average social networking app with its new naming system, wherein you’ll have a username and a standard @ handle.

The classical Discord model of Username#0000, wherein your name is followed by a pound key and four numbers, was part of what gave Discord its unique identity among social apps. As it so happens, that’s why the special naming system is being retired: It stands out too much from the pack.

In a Discord blog post, co-founder Stanislav Vishnevskiy explains that while there’s a novelty to the app having a special naming system, it’s easier to remember the standard handle convention used by the likes of Twitter and similar services. The numeric discriminators of the #0000 days, while clear in purpose, could be easily forgotten or confused, with people misremembering the orders of numbers or forgetting digits altogether.

These pitfalls to the numeric discriminator system aren’t relegated to anecdotal situations. In his post, Vishnevskiy includes some startling figures to illustrate just how overdue a change to the system was, including the fact that “across Discord, almost half of all friend requests fail to connect the user with the person they wanted to match with, mostly because users enter an incorrect or invalid username due to a combination of missing discriminator and incorrect casing.”

Given the boom in relevance Discord’s seen, especially during the height of the pandemic, it makes sense that issues once sequestered to a few have now become a problem of the many, something Vishnevskiy acknowledges in the blog: “The technical and product debt we incurred years ago caught up with us and small issues that seemed to impact a few people started affecting tens of millions of people.”

The idea underpinning the discriminator system was to ensure anyone could have any username they wanted, and if there were redundant preferences, they would be differentiated via the numbers after the name. But now, Discord joins the pool of other social apps that opt for a simpler @ system.

The blog post clarifies Discord didn’t jump to this industry-standard solution immediately. Instead, it experimented with other solutions in an attempt to retain some of the platform’s unique DNA while also eliminating the technical baggage the original system had accrued. The blog post explores some of the discarded efforts to find a suitable system, pointing out that they were either just as inconvenient as forcing users to adopt the @ system or even more cumbersome than the existing setup.

As to how this affects current Discord users: Everyone will need to pick a new username for the naming convention overhaul. Discord will kickstart the process in the coming weeks, with name change priority going to those who’ve had a Discord account the longest (the process will be based on the date an account was registered).

The timeline for the process in its entirety is several months, so don’t expect to see your #0001 status disappear just yet. And even when it goes, your new display name will default to your old username, keeping your Discord identity intact. Furthermore, even after all names are converted, your old discriminator and username will still be a functioning alias should any old-guard pals try to look you up the old way.

And the new username you adopt won’t be permanent, either. In the event you don’t like what you pick, you’ll be able to change it, albeit “not too frequently,” according to the blog. So if you really miss the four-digit system, just slam a few numbers into that new username of yours.