BetterDiscord allows users to modify the app to their liking

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For years the players have sworn from top to bottom that Discord, not Slack, is the best desktop chat app. But as with all good things, there is room for improvement. Enter BetterDiscord.

BetterDiscord allows users to tailor Discord’s desktop app to their own personal aesthetic and UX preferences, and introduces other major and minor quality of life improvements. Simply download and install the free software, then choose plugins and skins from BetterDiscord’s database. Other changes appear automatically, such as a button to browse a list of user-submitted servers and a new emoticon layout. (The software does not work with the mobile app or in the browser.) Your Discord window background can be the face of your favorite waifu anime, and you can remove that pesky gift button to the right of the box. text. You can make Discord look like three years ago or add a Google Translate option.

The experience is reminiscent of an earlier internet era, when black and green terminal style Winamp skins were popular and everything downloaded online was customizable, officially or not. BetterDiscord is not an officially sanctioned app; and it likely violates Discord’s Terms of Service, which prohibit modifying Discord. But the software has been installed more than 5.3 million times since 2015, and its developers say they haven’t seen Discord take action against users for modifying the client.

BetterDiscord is the work of a group of volunteer developers, led by a 27-year-old full-time firmware engineer named Zack Rauen. The project started just a few months after Discord launched in 2015. At first, BetterDiscord fixed small holes in the chat app and added new features like search. Rauen, who embarked on the project in 2016, said he had started creating a plugin that allows users with different “roles” on a server to choose different colors for their names and text. He later coded the ability to override Discord’s minimum window size requirement and remove annoying buttons he never used.

Since then, the project has grown. And while Discord has officially incorporated some features previously only accessible through BetterDiscord, BetterDiscord is still one step ahead. Dozens of users have submitted skins and plugins, for example, detailing who “reacted” to a post, determining how many friends are online, viewing server membership counts, or scrambling NSFW posts. BetterDiscord’s top three plugins have each been downloaded from its website over 100,000 times. Among its most tampered with: one that adds in a Spotify control panel, another that shows how long you’ve been on a voice call, and a third that shows all of a server’s hidden channels.

“We’ve seen new users come in because they love the visual customization of themes, and we’ve seen them come in because they love the functional changes plugins can make,” says Rauen. Since so much content is user-submitted, he and others perform manual security reviews of anything that comes their way, looking for malicious code. They also plan to launch an integrated store for BetterDiscord later this year, which will allow users to browse, download, and install add-ons from their Discord window.

Features like this could be especially useful for new Discord users – and there’s a lot more today than a year or two ago. Originally an Edgelord group chat platform for gamers, Discord exploded into mainstream audiences in 2020, when the very and least online were looking for ways to stay in touch. People use the chat app to watch movies with its screen sharing feature, to share memes (without logging into Facebook), and even to teach college classes. Last summer, Discord dropped its “for gamers” brand and adopted a new slogan: “Your Place to Talk”. This year he added a Clubhouse-like feature called Stages. Today, it has over 300 million users, whose interests extend beyond video games to things like knitting, metal music, board games, beloved YouTubers, and more.

As Discord increasingly transforms into ‘something for everyone’, BetterDiscord brings out the spirit of a previous internet age, helping Discord users express themselves, unhindered by what a company thinks it is the best.


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