Today, the popular video streaming service YouTube has committed the most foul murder. Two stubborn members of that salt-worthy Discord server were stolen from us at night. Groovy and Rythm are dead and mourn their beautiful robot companions.
With nearly as many servers as hundreds of millions of users, Discord is currently the most popular IRC-based messaging platform, in addition to its role as a leading audio and video chat application. Groovy and Rythm are automatic music sharing bots that you can install on your Discord server, and when deployed, anyone can send commands. In general, bots play a variety of roles, including moderating, emoji enlargement, and the most relevant music streaming here. You can also send complete playlists from Spotify to these music bots. They perform a small task to assemble an equivalent YouTube version and send their audio to the Discord server.
With the exception of most music streaming, Discord bots pull content from YouTube without the explicit permission of YouTube. Rythm today announced on its website that it will shut down its popular bot on September 15th after receiving a notification from YouTube. Groovy received a similar notification on August 24th and was shut down on August 30th. This is a shame.
The reason for these deletions is clear. YouTube doesn’t want another platform to restream their shit. Kotaku is asking Discord, Rythm, and YouTube for comment, but hasn’t responded at the time of publication. However, the platform said in a statement to Verge the same, claiming that Groovy violated the Terms of Service by modifying the service and using it for commercial purposes. However, the health of Discord and its implications for the future and all the weirdest communities hosted on the platform are less obvious.
Discord is a bit of a lawless wasteland, something I love deeply. I have been using Discord for the last 5 years. We joined the fan server platform of Friends at the Table, a popular real-life play podcast, but was soon replaced by a small server for tabletop role-playing game groups. With at most 10 members, they will soon transition from a player drawn together by the situation to a truly meaningful friendship. I played TTRPG on Discord and met three best friends. For many Discord users, this is a small number.
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Discord music bots laid the foundation for some of these friendships. I met my close friends Takuma and Fen by playing a wonderful indie desktop road trip game called Ribbon Drive. Your character is based on a mixtape you made for the game. Build the equivalent of a carefully selected playlist road trip that affects the tone and content of your story. That game became one of the first games I really explored my queenness with others, and Groovy was there all the time. Keeping everything on the Discord server in the car made me feel intimate and realistic, as if I had to go to YouTube and constantly skip ads between songs.
Groovy was actually confused by the first song in the playlist for some reason and ended up playing the wrong song. The first song in the game is important because it defines the character. You borrow the lyrics and shape them into character features and play them in the game. Our game was to overcome the storm and chase the characters from southern Georgia to Toronto. The first song that the confused robot accidentally played, which none of us actually heard, begins with the sound of rain in the windows. It’s a gorgeous song, and the lyrics feel like it’s tailored to the story we wanted to tell. Three queer children travel around the country, barking at the walls in winter, and finding shelter for each other as they go.
But this is not just for me. The best servers that friends and acquaintances I met at the peak of quarantine hell have ever attended, hosted, and lived had music bots as an integral part of the server. The blockade has seriously affected the mental health of many people, including mine. ADHD causes dopamine deficiency, which desperately stimulates the brain. Sharing a room with others inspires me and allows me to function better. Music, conversations with other people, and my own comments here and there helped get me on track in a very realistic way, making quarantine difficult. Discord’s vibrating channel alleviates that problem.
Sitting on an audio call listening to music with others working on my poop was a real relief for my brain. Groovy was a big part of that. It’s hard to be invited to a room where you’re sitting alone, but when you’re there with a music bot, it feels like a sign that you want people around you. It’s easy to listen to Spotify yourself, but instead I chose to broadcast the music across the server. This suggests that people want it there. So, despite my anxiety, I was more comfortable, coming in, and glad to vibrate while I was working.
Vibe channels, album listening parties, and tabletop RPG lists follow. Music bots have become an integral part of Discord, and Discord knows this. Discord as a platform has already partnered with YouTube to create a more formal watch party system in beta now on some servers. I don’t think this is a problem. But it’s not the same. Inevitably, it’s too commercialized and curated, as the rest of Discord is slowing down. Its strange, messy and human edges are slowly scraped off, which is very disappointing.
Not all oversights are bad. Discord has begun shutting down a server that acts as a breeding ground for fascist rhetoric and neo-Nazisim. This is a good thing. However, it still points to Discord’s direction. As with all platforms, we ultimately want to increase market share and popularity, and we need to make it more attractive to potential partners and marketers.
We are confident that if Discord is over-commercialized, it will replace Discord with a new, weird and lawless platform that is crowded with many of its most stubborn users. That platform also hosts some wild shit, not everything is great until it inevitably blocks what works.
Just as the system sands us, people are good at finding new and weird ways to connect with each other. Goodbye Groovy and Rythm, I hope your offspring will be cooler and worse.
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