Microsoft is reportedly having discussions with Discord to buy the communications app. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is in “exclusive talks” to acquire Discord, and a deal could close next month. It’s the latest acquisition target for Microsoft, after the company failed to acquire TikTok and Pinterest recently. While all three are very different services, they share one common element: community.
Microsoft is willing to spend big on these services because, outside of Xbox, it doesn’t have a huge consumer-facing community like rivals Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple do. Microsoft has watched Google acquire YouTube and turn it into the world’s biggest video platform, Amazon buy Twitch and dominate streaming, Facebook acquire both Instagram and WhatsApp to control the way millions communicate and socialize online, and Apple rule mobile with its App Store.
Discord gives Microsoft access to a growing list of more than 140 million monthly active users that includes thousands of top YouTubers, creators, and gamers. Microsoft wants its own community.
I would be sad to see any big tech company buy Discord, but especially sad to see Microsoft do it. They don’t seem to manage “communities” well — and they do own several communities. Over the last decade they’ve acquired Skype, Mojang (the company that created Minecraft), LinkedIn, and GitHub. And don’t forget Mixer, which Microsoft recently shut down and then jumped in bed with Facebook for game streaming.
Microsoft also, of course, has their Xbox platform — and how they’ve never managed to expand the Xbox brand into anything beyond a console and a monthly subscription to connect to the internet is something that I’ll never understand.
I hope Jason Citron can look past that massive dumptruck of cash ($10,000,000,000!) and see that he has a powerful platform. And people with powerful platforms have a chance to shape the future of the world. By selling Discord, Citron becomes just another cog in the machine at Microsoft. He might be wealthy but he doesn’t control the system — and if you aren’t in control, you don’t have influence (compare and contrast Kevin Systrom to Mark Zuckerberg). Of course, not all people want that kind of power — nor should they have it — so could you blame him for taking the cash and spending the next seventy years lounging on a white sandy beach without a care in the world?