Wednesday, April 14, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Blocking Discord Channels Marked NSFW on iOS

Jacob Kastrenakes (tweet, Hacker News):

Discord is amping up its restrictions on adult content, with new age gates on NSFW servers and a ban on accessing these servers from iOS devices.

[…]

The NSFW marker does two things. First, it prevents anyone under the age of 18 from joining. But the bigger limitation is that it prevents NSFW servers from being accessed on iOS devices — a significant restriction that’s almost certainly meant to cater to Apple’s strict and often prudish rules around nudity in services distributed through the App Store.

No such rules apply to groups conversing via iMessage or FaceTime.

Kyle Orland:

Apple’s iOS Developer Guidelines say that apps with user-generated content “that end up being used primarily for pornographic content… do not belong on the App Store.” The guidelines allow for “incidental” NSFW content generated by users on web-based services if “the content is hidden by default and only displayed when the user turns it on via your website,” a caveat that apparently isn’t sufficient for Discord’s comfort.

My recollection is that enabling it via a switch in the app, or based on the iOS parental controls settings, is forbidden.

Discord is reportedly in the late stages of acquisition talks—which could value the service at $10 billion—with Microsoft and other parties. The service has over 140 million monthly users and 300 million registered accounts.

reificator:

Every small community I’m on on Discord (meaning the majority of the servers I regularly interact with) sets every channel to `NSFW`, and some mark the server itself. They do this because everyone involved is known to be 18+ (Usually higher than that) and they want to be able to have the same discussions they’d have in person.

These communities are not about porn, are not about anything “distasteful”, but the flag is set there so that if a topic comes up we can discuss it without risking a ban.

In other words these communities are meant to be a Third Place, or an extension of a physical Third Place, particularly recently thanks to COVID.

The content here is literally no different than the content that could show up in a long-running group chat in the Messages app on iOS.

Matthew Bischoff:

When we dealt with this at Tumblr, it became my full time jobs for weeks to find incredibly complex ways to appease Apple’s censors. This happened every time they found a sexy blog they didn’t like. It’s absurd.

Ian Vanagas (via Hacker News):

The competition between internet communication platforms is fierce. Discord wasn’t early to voice channels or group chats. They weren’t unique for targeting their offering to gamers. Other platforms have the same features as them. Yet they are a multi-billion dollar business. How? To borrow an idea from Sarah Tavel, they built a 10x better product AND capture more value from it.

Previously:

Update (2021-04-15): AAPL of Discord:

<cough>Twitter</cough>

Update (2021-04-16): Nick Heer:

Speaking of Twitter, that company expressly permits “graphic violence and consensually produced adult content” within users’ tweets “provided that [users] mark this media as sensitive”. Reddit permits NSFW text and media so long as it is marked. Discord has a similar policy of allowing NSFW media in channels so long as those channels are marked. What makes it different? Is Apple going to demand that Reddit and Twitter also prohibit accessing NSFW media from within those companies’ iOS apps?

Update (2021-04-22): Sarah E. Needleman and Cara Lombardo (via Hacker News):

Chat startup Discord Inc. has halted talks to sell itself to potential suitors including Microsoft Corp. , according to people familiar with the matter, as it resumes interest in a potential initial public offering down the line.

4 Comments

Old Unix Geek

Providing a second-class experience on iOS is an interesting solution.

I wonder whether the message will be "You could read this, but you can't, because Apple doesn't want you to." or "You may not access this content because it is restricted to those over 18, and all iOS users are presumed to have the intelligence of minors".

No doubt, Apple would claim those options violate their App-store rules.

Still, I wonder how they will handle broken links...

I've long wondered how Discord makes its money. It provides a fantastic server (super fantastically useful during this Pandemic) which is essentially free. I've heard a few things about them making their money in various ways, but it seems clear now: they intend to make their money by selling the company for $billions. Which means the purchasing company then has to find a way to “monetize” all the happy users (I would say customers, but most of us are not actually customers!), which inevitably turns a large number of them in to unhappy users or ex-users.

I hope I'm wrong, and perhaps if Microsoft (who doesn't have as much need to make money from this specific platform segment) buys them it wont happen. Time will tell.

Kevin Schumacher

@Peter I don't know that I agree that their entire strategy is to sell the company. They've previously turned down companies interested in acquiring them, citing incompatibility with their of the company, and they actually have revenue to speak of ($130m in 2020, per WSJ), unlike a lot of startups. The question is what their profit or loss is, although given that they've had about double as much investor funding as they have revenue, it's almost certain they're currently operating at a loss.

Still, given that they've convinced enough users to pay for their Nitro subscription service during a pandemic to nearly double their revenue YOY in 2020, I don't know that I'd count them as out just yet.

Kevin Schumacher

*Clarification on my last comment -- they nearly tripled, not doubled, revenue in 2020 vs 2019, $130m vs $45m. All "estimated," of course, since they're a private company, but sourced from WSJ so probably pretty reliable.

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