Update: The Discord server will now open on Wednesday September 7. Thanks for being patient. ❤

In May 2015, Unreal Slackers was just an idea. I wanted to create a place where Unreal Engine users could meet and help each other with as few boundaries as possible. This week, we welcomed our 4,000th member.

What was once an idea is now a thriving global community, and it’s not slowing down. So why would I take on the monumental task of moving to a new platform? Why now?

What's wrong with Slack?

Slack is made for businesses — and that’s not changing

Slack has made it clear to me they are 100% focused on internal communication for businesses. They have no plans to support large communities. I’ve reached out to them several times, but their stance is firm.

It’s not built to handle groups this big

With 4,000 members, many of us are already experiencing performance issues — and it will only get worse as we grow. The free plan also limits file uploads (5GB) and message history (10,000 messages). We reached our file limit months ago, and message history is practically useless. With an average of 6,000–10,000 messages a day, this is an all too familiar sight:

Unfortunately, we can’t “upgrade our team.” Paid plans start at $8/user/month. Not only would a paid plan be scary expensive; it would become more expensive over time. Even if we could afford a paid plan, it wouldn’t matter in the end because…

Slack has a hidden user limit

Yeah. That’s right. The pricing page says there is “no limit to the number of people you can invite to Slack,” but some communities have run into an undocumented user limit: 8,462. When a Slack team hits this limit, invites are disabled permanently. This has bitten at least two large communities in the past. We will suffer the same fate if we stay.

Knowing all this, I see no reason to wait for the inevitable conclusion. The longer we wait, the more difficult the move will be. I want this community to thrive for many years to come. To do that, we need a platform that supports us. We need a platform that wants us to thrive.

Right now, I believe that platform is Discord.

Why Discord?

After a ton of research, debate and community feedback, I have chosen Discord as the future home of Unreal Slackers. Let me explain why.

It solves our biggest problems

Discord is built specifically for communities. Really big ones. There’s an Overwatch server with over 27,000 members, and the web/desktop/mobile apps all handle it without breaking a sweat. There’s no limit on message history, and you can upload as many files as you want as long as they’re under 8MB each.

It’s easier to join

You know the landing page where anyone can sign up for Unreal Slackers? I had to hack that together using a third-party solution because Slack doesn’t support open invites out of the box. Discord has instant invites that can be shared anywhere, and it’s much easier for new users to join the conversation.

It has community-focused features

If the performance or ease of use doesn’t convince you of Discord’s focus on communities, the features surely will:

  • There’s a friends list — and it’s server independent.
  • You can block people.
  • You can control who’s allowed to send you friend requests.
  • Unlike Slack, email addresses are not visible to others.
  • You can join multiple servers with a single account.
  • You can change your nickname on each server.
  • Real moderation tools make it easy for us to manage offensive behavior.
  • Roles let us manage permissions on a granular level and make it easier to see who’s who in the community (admins, mods, etc.)
  • You can connect your Twitch account so people know when you’re streaming, what you’re streaming and have a link to get there.
  • Streamer Mode hides your sensitive information while streaming.
  • High-quality voice chat in public channels or privately with friends.
  • There’s more, but this article is long enough as it is!

The team is very supportive

I’ve been in talks with the Discord team for a few months now. All of my questions have met with clear, detailed responses from friendly people who very obviously care about helping communities thrive. They are fully prepared to help us with any issues we have during the transition, and they’re excited to have us. Unlike Slack, it’s in Discord’s best interest that we succeed.

It’s 100% free to use

Discord is a completely free service. There are no premium features, storage limits or user limits. So how will they sustain the business?

Their  plan is to keep core functionality free and eventually sell cosmetic server upgrades like themes, sticker packs and sound packs. I was  initially skeptical of this, but my research has turned up at least one example of this business model being a huge success. If Discord maintains their growth and handles cosmetic upgrades properly, I think everything will be fine.

There are drawbacks

Discord isn’t perfect. We will lose a few things in the transition, including:

  • No search (but it’s coming soon).
  • No custom emoji (it’s on the road map).
  • No channel shortlisting for new members. Members join every channel by default, but it’s very easy to mute channels you don’t care about.
  • Some people may not be able to use Discord at work if your IT department blocks it. If you encounter this issue, please let me know.

When are we moving?

Starting today, I will gradually invite people in waves to help test our new  Discord server and give feedback. Moderators and community leaders will  be first, followed by other active members who are interested in helping. On Wednesday September 7, the server will open up to everyone. At that time, the current invite URL will redirect to a new Discord invite page to minimize the amount of broken links across the web.

Unrealbot will move with us to Discord (yay!), and a special version of Unrealbot will stay behind on Slack to help with stragglers. My goal is to migrate every active member to Discord by the end of September.

Phew. Well, there it is. I hope I’ve made it clear what is happening and why. If I  haven’t, please reach out to me on Twitter or Slack and I’ll do my best  to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

I understand some of you won’t like this, and that’s OK. Discord isn’t for everyone. Neither is Slack. Regardless, I’ll do my best to make the new server feel like home.

This is the beginning of a brighter future for us. ❤