Brace yourself: Discord is going to make everyone pick a new username

Discord Clyde AI bot
(Image credit: Discord)

Discord is making changes to its usernames that will finally eliminate the four-digit "discriminators" that make them so unwieldy. It's also adding a new Display Names option, so the way you appear to other Discord users can stay the same—or be changed to (just about) whatever you want.

To be honest, Discord has always been a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to usernames. Every now and then I have to provide my Discord user info to a game publisher in order to take part in a presentation on the platform, and literally every single time I have to look it up in the app. I can remember the name, sure, but the number? No chance. Complicating the situation even further, usernames are case-sensitive, so phibi#8936, for instance, is different from PhIBI#8936.

Discord has come to recognize that this system isn't ideal. Co-founder Stanislav Vishnevskiy explained in a blog post that Discord adopted the current system in order to ensure that nobody ended up locked out of a name they wanted to use, and that the discriminator numbers were made publicly visible so users could be sure they were chatting with the proper person when they're connected across different servers. It worked, but the kludgy approach created a "technical debt" that started to get seriously out of hand as Discord's userbase grew.

Vishnevskiy detailed several scenarios in which the Discord username system causes headaches, but what it all ultimately comes down to is simply that "our current usernames can often be too complicated or obscure for people to remember and share easily." 

And the numbers are stark: More than 40% of Discord users either don't know their discriminator number or don't even know what a discriminator is, and worse, nearly half of all friend requests on the platform fail to connect with the proper user. That's obviously not great for a social media platform, but a fix wasn't easy to come by. 

"We decided at one point that the most important issue to solve was case-sensitivity and special characters, so there could be only one phibi#8936, instead of allowing permutations like PhIBI#8936, and PHibi#8936," Vishnevskiy wrote. "Unfortunately, we found that nearly one-third of our active users would be forced to change their name just to accommodate this. Meanwhile, people from regions where non-alphanumeric characters are common in names, such as Asia, would have difficulty fully representing themselves."

Adding a separate display name option to that change was also rejected as unworkable, because "we would have an even more complex system with both a Display Name and a username that still included the four-digit discriminator." So instead, Discord has opted for a simpler approach: Everyone will be given a unique username made up of lowercase characters, numbers, plus period and underscore—and no discriminator number— and a separate, non-unique display name that can have pretty much any kind of character including emojis, non-Latin characters, and whatever else fits within Discord's community guidelines. Existing usernames with the discriminator will also continue to work, so you don't have to worry about losing old connections.

This is what it will look like: 

(Image credit: Discord)

(Image credit: Discord)

The new system will be rolled out over the balance of the year, during which time all users will be asked to choose a new username. This will happen "slowly over the course of several months," with priority based on when you registered for Discord: Those who have been with it the longest will be given the first chances to pick a new name.

"We recognize that this is a big change," Vishnevskiy wrote. "There may be hiccups with this process, and it may be tough to part ways with that “#0001” that’s meant a lot to you over the years. We’ll be doing everything we can to manage things as smoothly as possible."

A specific start time for the name-change process hasn't been announced, but Discord said in a detailed support article that it will begin in "the coming weeks." Users will be notified when they are eligible to change their username in the Discord app: You won't be forced to change it right away but Discord recommending choosing a new name as soon as you become eligible to do so, "as that is when you will have the best chance of getting the username you want."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.