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On Discord and Openness


... on the importance of actual open protocols.

The story begins by...

Me launching into writing a post on Mastodon. It was supposed to be arguing thusly:

... possibly unpopular opinion: I actually like Discord.

My main problem with most chat apps is that they have garbage clients that look "modern" while not actually being usable, or... looking like I would want them to look.

meanwhile, Discord is already aiming for an IRC-like experience, with nice extensions. Sure, you can't really change it, but it already has many things that are good about IRC, with cool extensions. If I were to pick a platform to hang out on, without taking into account "freedom" implications, it might actually be a better one than most of the open ones.

See, Facebook is obviously evil. Many of the other chat apps are either evil, bad, or both, relying on locking in users into their little walled gardens; Discord, on the other hand, is just a good product already.

Just out of curiosity, I did check though whether they have third-party clients. They let you write bots, right?

There are open source clients!

Well okay, now I like Discord even more. They provide a decent official client (well, as decent as Electron apps ever get), and you could still use your own. Not bad.

Yes, it's not ideal that they're not open, and it's not guaranteed that they won't turn into something evil in the future, but, for now, they're fairly okay. Sounds like proof that not every closed platform will immediately go mad once given power?

There is, for example, a plugin for weechat, which...


Hey, so I know this is somewhat of a bummer, but I got banned because of ToS violation today. This seemed to be connected to creating a new PM channel via the /users/@me endpoint. As that's basically a confirmation for what we've believed would never be enforced, I decided to not work on the cordless project anymore. I'll be taking down cordless in package managers in hope that no new users will install it anymore without knowing the risks. I believe that if you manage to build it yourself, you've probably read the README and are aware of the risks. I'll keep the repository up, but might archive it at some point. And yes, you'll still be able to use existing binaries for as long as discord doesn't introduce any more breaking changes. However, be aware that the risk of getting a ban will only get higher with time!


... what the actual hell?

So, apparently, I was wrong here. They are already evil. They're already bullying people who aren't content with their walled garden... even though they didn't even have to; I'm reasonably sure that most people would keep using their official client anyway.

But then... who knows. If you're too lenient in a dictatorship, your adversaries might take power from you... so you better eliminate those who compete with you for power. Even if the only thing they want is using your service.

... so it's all about open protocols, right?

Remember MSN Messenger? and the numerous clients we had for it? There was aMSN, for example:

screenshot of aMSN

MSN Messenger didn't have an open protocol. It wasn't anywhere near "open". It was built by Microsoft, after all. And yet... sure, all these clients didn't quite follow protocol changes immediately, but they mostly worked.

Meanwhile, Discord has an API. Well, also, it also has a "Terms of Service". And a herd of lawyers who keep enforcing it.

This is where Cory Doctorow's depressingly realistic article on Intellectual Property (which I couldn't actually find for the time being) comes in. The conclusion being: "open source" used to be a tiny missing part of what we didn't have in the 80s... you could just reverse-engineer things, but it was tedious, so it would've been nicer if you didn't have to. Even in the 90s, talking to a chat app wasn't something companies would do too much against. Of course, you might or might not have had people to write this code... but technically, it would've worked.

Meanwhile, these days, it's all the other tools that are used for controlling users... e.g. draconian terms of service. Writing the code isn't the problem anymore; it's more about being allowed to use it.

It's not like, for example, you couldn't write code to grab your friends list and your posts from Facebook. The actual reason no one does it is not technical: it's because they'd sue your face off. Because they get to make the rules.

So... no. I don't like Discord anymore.

This is post no. 23 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge.

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.