What's the state of Discourse chat?

There’s a vast grow of Discord servers for all kind of things and it’s getting harder to resist getting pulled into the next big proprietary disaster. Most of the time, it’s also rather misused since users have to deal with a giant flood of (mostly irrelevant) data, it’s all highly volatile and there are no good ways to structure things for the long term in a meaningful way. And of course, search engines can’t find sh*t while many of this information is something people actually should find. But it’s still growing and it’s closed nature combined with the network effect plays a bigger role in this.

In the meanwhile, I was really looking for possibilities to avoid this. Matrix/Element was a try to at least avoid this power monopoly of a single company being in control. But their UX couldn’t really compete and the apps were buggy which led to a very low user acceptance. It also couldn’t solve the basic issue of storing information for the long term in a structured and accessible way. (They evolved quite a lot in the last time tho and I’m following their development with great interest and hope)

When the chat feature for Discourse was announced I was super hyped. From my experience and feedback from people on Discord I knew that people actually want a forum but they also need a tightly integrated way for a more direct, unstructured, uncomplicated and volatile communication. The chat feature sounded like it could satisfy this demand in the mid term. You can have space for casual chat and minor topics and if some discussion is getting more relevant, you can integrate it into the existing forum structure.

Now it has been a while since this feature is around. Apparently, not even this forum really embraced Discourse chat. (What’s actually the point to have both, DMs and 1:1 chat?) I actually never encountered a single site where the chat is used. So I’m wondering… am I so wrong with my view that this feature has big potential as a counter movement to this messy data grave named Discord? Is it that bad? Why is there such a low acceptance? Will it inflate the traffic costs to the gross national product of a medium sized island nation? :smile: Or is it officially seen more as a side gig?


There was over 5K chat messages here in the last 30 days per About - Discourse Meta. It’s just that the chat rooms are not for the main public that comes with support and feature requests.

And we had 10x that in our internal instance, where it’s our main sync comms tool :smile:

It’s not a side gig at all, we have a full team dedicated to this full time. We recently launched Introducing chat threads!, and there are lots of cool features in the pipeline.


In About - IO Games Forum, there happens to be a very active chat system there, with over 100k chat messages in the last month. That forum embraces the forum chat system, and disabled the message system in favor of chat’s direct messages.


Member of the chat team here! :wave: As @Falco shared, we’re actively working on improving and expanding chat so that it can support the unstructured, off-topic conversations you mentioned.

We recently completed a research project with some chat users on Meta where we learned loads about what people love about Discourse chat today, and how we could make it better for them going forward. A lot of that research is informing what we’re working on today.

Here are a few examples of projects we’re working on (disclaimer here that this is what we are working on today, but in the world of software things change fast so no promises about timeline at the moment):

  • Updates to group chats (direct messages with more than one other person) so that you can easily add new members to an existing group chat and set a title to help distinguish that group chat (or just have some fun).

  • Improvements to chat’s mobile design so chat is easier to browse and interact with from your phone.

There’s more to come! Further on the horizon, we’ll be tackling projects like improving notifications so that folks can stay more well-informed about conversations they care about.

I view “DMs” (or “PMs” as we tend to call them) as a substitute for email. It’s slower, more formal, and longer lived than chat, which makes a good option when you’re having an asynchronous, more formal conversation that you’d like to have a long-term record of.

Chat, on the other hand, is — as you’ve mentioned —

I’d also add that it’s better suited for synchronous communication. I could see someone choosing a 1:1 chat over a 1:1 PM when they want to work through something quickly with a colleague or want to catch up socially in an informal way — we do both of these a lot at Discourse!

While you could use just one or the other, they offer specific advantages that make them better suited for particular use cases — so having both at your fingertips gives you more flexibility in how you communicate.


Interesting, didn’t know that it exists. How should I? :wink: This is exactly what I mean. This is a great feature and people love chats. Me too. Why is it hidden for the majority of users? Thousands of Discord servers are open (at least in terms of what Discord considers “open” in their walled garden) for anyone.

Hey, thanks for chiming in! Great to see that you’re working on all these things :slight_smile:

But this is more a matter of the UI in the front end. Just want to drop a quick message? Fine, here’s an input field and a send button. Want to send something bigger, more formal? Also fine, click on this “rich message” button and leverage the full power of Discourse. But the backend for both could be exactly the same. In the end it’s just some text with markup. There should be also only one central place to see all private communication. Anyway, that’s something for a dedicated discussion :slight_smile:

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