I avoid Discord, and I certainly wouldn’t install their desktop app…
For those wondering why people would use a proprietary, closed-source, locked in, etc., app, it’s because they actually can figure out how to use it.
I don’t get why so many people tolerate or even insist on proprietary IM.
Because the people you want to communicate with are there. And for “joining an existing group” there is no way to convince them to switch, you can just choose to not participate.
I’ve been trying to find out what the reason is, especially with the enormous increae over the last few months in Discord usage. For the most part, it seems like the easier set-up and it’s “shinny” look attract people. Neither appear legitemate in my eyes, but I guess most people don’t want to bother setting up their own server, so they use pre-existing services, that have to be funded, that require propriatory software for user exploitation. I don’t know what to say about the latter, I dislike the look-and-feel of Discord, but apparently many don’t.
Not to say that they are outstanding quality, but there aren’t really good non-proprietary alternatives. Don’t get me wrong, XMPP offers means, Matrix is heading in that direction, and if you are willing to self-host you have an amazing Slack alternative named Mattermost.
But, XMPP can be messy, Matrix/Riot/Element is not really polished and scares people away and most importantly something appealing about the proprietary ones is effectively centralization. If you are a gamer, you have that one app to join all the gaming communities on your phone or laptop/desktop. You don’t really care about someone collecting you gaming communications, etc.
Combine that with community things (Stickers, etc.), extremely quick onboarding and most alternatives don’t look appealing anymore.
I think something like Matrix (or XMPP, PSYC, maybe IRCv3 even) could become a contender. But I also think you need to have some big entities taking care about development and infrastructure. Maybe multiple even, with some concentrating ob business, some on private, some on gaming communications. Open standards and technologies even means that everyone could profit from enhancements in either space.
Every now and people try that. So far none really succeeded in gaining a critical mass which is probably the most important factor for communication solutions. But for that you kinda need marketing. I think what Mozilla did there in the early days of Firefox, also marketing wise would be needed for that, because if all the gamer friends use discord, you will use discord, if all employers use Slack, you will use Slack and if people get WhatsApp or Telegram you’ll get these.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say protocols cannot be decentralized, after all email works. but that you also want to have an entity that you know will take care of problems and make it appear like it won’t be gone tomorrow. So some mainstream server (think what gmail is for email nowadays) is quite a necessity. If Mozilla was in better shape or the FSF wasn’t so extreme it drives away users, I think such an institution would be able to make these things happen.
I think Matrix and Jitsi for example make good progress, but to my knowledge they are a bit small, which might be the cause for things to be a bit unpolished.
Of course you first have to make things work to a certain degree, but without marketing and making things shiny things won’t be appealing to people.
To contrast with all of the existing answers, none of which can fully account for the remarkable popularity of services like Freenode’s IRC network, I think that we need a theory of users who don’t care about Freedom. They’re blind to it, as a matter of education and rote, and so it doesn’t bother them that Discord scores poorly on metrics of Free Software.
This helps explain why people are comfortable joining IRC on an ad-hoc basis to ask for help but leave as soon as their questions are answered: They don’t understand that there is a longstanding tradition of being a regular member who idles in chat rooms; they only understand that IRC is a place to ask quick questions and get pithy answers.
This gives us a hint for how to beat proprietary services. Systems like Discord are necessarily centralized as a matter of account management. If we could figure out an incentive structure which punishes groups like Discord for employing people to work on centralized chat systems, or merely incentivizes proper decentralization, then we likely could permanently exclude them from the Free Software ecosystem.
Because open standards aren’t meeting the needs of the average user.
HTTP, DNS, W3C Standards, SMTP, IMAP, etc. did a great job. I also think XMPP and Matrix are pretty solid on the standards side. XMPP was and is used in many widespread commercial services.
It’s more that a lot of implementations for various reasons don’t appeal to people. Either rough edges, hard to use, esp. with multiple devices, focusing on things you don’t care about in particular situations (like E2E Encryption while gaming), etc.
And then you have annoying things, like mobile messaging and push notifications, which is though slowly being fixed (there’s XEPs and working implementations). I think over the past few years a lot of ground was covered, but there’s rough edges and lack of marketing.