I agree that it’s still an open question, but I’ve tried to argue in this thread that Discord is, at least in part, a competitor to Discourse. I think you need to look past some of the arguably circumstantial qualities, such as that Discord is an app, or proprietary, or that it’s chat where Discourse is forum-first. And rather look at: what purposes are these tools being used for? What “Job to be done” (JTBD for short) are users and companies “hiring” these tools for?
For Discord, I would say the JTBD are more numerous, in general. It includes things like game communities, casual family chats, people who use it just for direct messaging, etc. But critically, Discord is also used for support communities in much the same way as Discourse, along with other Discourse-like special interest communities (cars, anime, whatever), etc. So they’re not the same, but there is significant overlap, and I would say that is increasingly true.
Outside of the gaming context Discord is used less by large enterprises for core community functions, and I would say that’s probably one of the largest differences, and where Discourse instead shines and has more market leadership (though Vanilla seems to be a strong competitor in that area). But that’s where we are today, and the point of this thread is that Discord seems to be taking steps toward potentially competing more directly with forum-based communities. Whether they start to provide better branding and moderation control for larger communities and enterprises is an open question, but clearly they have a lot of resources they could put toward that if they wanted to.
Meanwhile on a more anecdotal level, as a note-taking and productivity tool/personal knowledge management (PKM) enthusiast I would argue from experience that there significant overlap in these tools and potential decision or contention between them when it comes to small-medium software companies building communities for support and user interaction. Slack is in the mix there too, for some god-awful reason, but let’s set that aside for now. Many note-taking, PKM, and productivity SaaS products have Discourse forums, e.g. Obsidian, Airtable, Figma, RemNote, etc. But many of them also have very active Discords! Now imagine if Discord had been offering forum functions all along, including when each of these companies created their Discourse and Discord communities. When it came time for these companies to decide whether to implement Discourse or Discord, and why to use either or both, don’t you think Discord having built-in forum functions might influence the decision?
The original car analogy doesn’t really work well here because it’s not individual users making a decision on what “car” to buy for themselves and their personal uses. Rather it is mostly companies making a decision about what large capacity vehicle they should use to accommodate their many users. The analogy breaks down somewhat, but let’s go with it for a moment: some people want to travel quickly, i.e. airplane, others prefer slow, so they’ll take a bus. Your users might want both, so you have both in your fleet. But if there was a bus that could sprout wings and also fly when necessary, well… would you rather buy and maintain one big vehicle for your users, or multiple?
Now that Discourse has chat built-in, it’s a bus with wings! And that’s great. But Discord is also about to become one, and that’s potentially (likely) going to put pressure on Discourse…