Does my Local Install Communicate With Discourse Servers?

Hello. I’m yet another newbie thinking of moving a forum over to Discourse.

What I want to know is this: If I install Discourse on a cloud server of my own somewhere, will my local install communicate with the Discourse servers for any purposes at all? In other words, if the Discourse company died, would my forum still work? Obviously I’m hoping it doesn’t die but I’d like to know if I’ll have time to migrate if it does.

Thanks in advance!

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There are two things I can think of that a “typical” Discourse install communicates with Discourse “servers” for. The first is the Avatar service. Discourse hosts the letter avatars that new accounts use by default. You can easily change that if Discourse (the company) ever went away. The second thing is communication with Github where you get updates from - obviously, if the team stopped updating the software, there’d be no more updates on the team’s Discourse.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything…your Discourse install is your Discourse install!


It also does version checks against a centralized API on a regular basis - which can be turned off as well.


Good to know, thanks @RGJ! I always thought updates queried Github, not a Discourse API…

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Yes, Discourse-the-software can outlive Discourse-the-company. Nothing in the Discourse codebase requires talking to Discourse servers, although as others have said, there are some things that are enabled by default that communicate externally. The version check failing won’t have any impact on operation; the thing that’ll cause the most visible problems is the avatars service, but even that’s just some missing avatar images (same as if gravatar went on the blink).

The most important resiliency feature of Discourse, though, is the fact that it is open source. Even if there were some sort of “phone home to get approval to run” code buried in Discourse somewhere, because you have the full source code and the legal right to redistribute modified versions, you (or anyone) could rip that code out with impunity, and give everyone else your fixed version.


Thanks for the replies, everyone. Very helpful. One related question: how easy is it to snag a copy of the avatars and point Discourse to the local copy?

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It’s open source and with a Dockerfile ready to use:


The avatars are generated on-demand; the central avatars service code is open source as well, and there is some internal letter avatar rendering code (that doesn’t get used normally), but which you can enable by changing the external system avatars enabled site setting. You may want to read this topic for more background on why we support a centralised letter avatars service.