> Why is this the case?

In a sentence: because doing FOSS is just a way for some people to enhance their careers.

Anything not related to the code is extraneous to that.

Running a mailing list (for example) isn't resume-stuffing material for someone who isn't a sysadmin.

A popular, well-known FOSS project enhances your career better than one that is unpopular and obscure. From that perspective, that forum system is best which facilitates popularity.

Then there is the youth factor. I think that mostly older developers care about this issue. Younger developers who didn't live through the Unix wars and the rise of GNU/Linux and all that are deaf to the issues. They take an Internet full of wall-gardened social networks to be the norm; it's what they were already born into. Asking the kids not to gather in some Discord group is like asking kids of yesteryear not to hang around at the mall. (The mall is proprietary, so what?)

It's super easy, no maintenance, and free.

Every minute spent dealing with a chat server is one less minute working on your project, or spending time with your family.

Because it works, its easy to appoint anyone to help with moderation without risking much, and a large part of the tech community has an account
> Is self-hosting just too inconvenient/expensive/pointless?

The answer is in the question: it's the first two. Self-hosting is inconvenient & expensive in comparison to Discord. That's all there is to it.

If you can run a SaaS competitor that is: (1) built on an open-source stack, (2) close to being as easy to use as Discord, (3) free to use, you will steal marketshare. Guaranteed.

However, bullet-point #3 tends to contravene the first 2.

Overwhelming weight. If you're trying to manage a community and you want volunteers, you want to minimize the "hassle-hurdle". You can either go entirely against the grain, or use something that everyone already has. And even if begrudgingly, everyone has discord.

I wish it wasn't proprietary products that won out in this regard, but they did, and there's little point shooting yourself in the foot on principle.

Self-hosting is definitely not easy, but it’s the indirection more so. You’re excited about X and want to gather a community around that, and you definitely don’t want to spend a lot of time on Y (mechanics of running a forum).

It’s good that Matrix is catching up in UX… we’ll hopefully soon be at a point where it will be good enough to serve as the default choice. All it would take at that point (for example) is one SNAFU from Discord.

Let me go through it like this-

What I like the most is Discourse. But I need to self-host it or pay for it. I don't want to do either for a quick study group or a side project.

Zulip offers free hosting. I opened an account and spent the better part of 2 hours setting it up. I announced it. Exactly two people joined in. One of them wasn’t regular.

Then I created a Discord, and 10+ people joined in every day.

I don't want to use Discord, because I can't have direct contact with the users (discord doesn't share email with server admind/creators), Discord is bloated, it has poor search functionality.

But what can I do? It's where the people are. It's what they want.

Reddit was another option, but had criticsl mass problem there, too for some servers related to foss/group I admined.

So many OSS communities are on Discord because so many OSS communities are on discord.

It got that way in part because things like Matrix were not ready yet years ago and things like IRC were too moribund. Individual forums require that everyone make a new account and have no network effect.

It also helped that Discord had a ton of users already via its original niche in gaming.

Now it has network effect, which means people will use it even if they hate it. Network effects are awesomely powerful.

The only real alternative is Matrix. Others are saying how discord has managed hosting and it's free but there is matrix.org and managed matrix hosting: https://matrix.org/ecosystem/hosting/

In my opinion Matrix sucks as does lemmy and mastodon. However just saying that alone is such a taboo on HN and anywhere in the tech bubble. On top if everything else, discord is very usable and pleasant to use. It does not intimidate new comers either.

Even Slack doesn't hold up to discord on performance.

Let me give you a first hand empircal evidence on performance. I am on like 4-6 Slack workspaces and I had to download the desktop app because any browser I tried it with just chokes itself and thr system to death. It is managable now but still a hog. Element is so bad, even after upgrading to 32G ram and nvme it is still unusable with the number of rooms I am in, just doesn't scale. I tried Cinny which doesn't even work at all and all the clients are playing catch up with the messed up rapidly changing api to the point they are all buggy or lacking major features that make it hard to talk to people who use the full featured element. Discord on the other hand, I am on 4 spaces like Slack but I have it all on one tab and I even forget that it is open. And companies have provider me good support on discord.

So long as you don't use freaking email I am happy but it looks like discord or telegram are the only usable alternatives. Oh, and signal is crap too for a whole other host of reasons.

The whole making a cult out if these products/platforms thing isn't working out imho.

Longtime free open source guy here.

Right now, it's simple; it's because Discord is THAT GOOD. I kind of love and hate that about it. Discord's just infinity better than anything in its class.

Its because there is no free/OSS alternative that is as good.

- Good RBAC controls for managing your community and making sure there aren't bots - Nice API access for building bots - Free without any necessary system administration overhead

Discord is just an easy to get into system to start a community without any large commitment on hosting.

Honestly… I don’t mind discord. I’ve seen their “forums” feature actually work pretty well, and the roles system is just customizable enough to be useful, with about being annoying to configure.

Yeah, there’s obvious problems with it being a closed community, gated by Discord the company. I do wish content was exposed to the wider internet, like how forums (phpBB etc) work.

But I get it, if your passion is a FOSS project, you want to think as little about the “other stuff” that only takes away precious free hours you’d rather put into your FOSS project. Discord handles most of that for free/close to free/with donations collected for you from your “server” members.

There’s a space for a FOSS project to fill, and matrix is SO close. It needs a push, but I think the dominoes could totally fall in its favour given some critical mass of projects using it.

Yeah that sounds like a huge pain in the ass, and even for us technical users, why would I want to join someone's self-hosted chat server as opposed to just joining their Discord server?

I don't see any harm in using Discord or Slack, but I can think of benefits.

Now, why use a chat server at all over a forum where information can be persisted and more easily searchable, and where people put more thought into their messages--that's the real question. Too many things are on Discord and other chat platforms that shouldn't be. The information loss/question repetition problem is huge, and various bots that mitigate the problem are arguably just band-aids for a problem that needn't exist.

I think the largest contributing reason is that Discord is where a lot of people are these days. It's convenient, well understood, easy to add another channel. Every time you ask someone to use a solution they don't already have, you're adding friction to connection process. If they've already got a Discord account, and the client, and just have to press the button, it's easy.

On the other hand, if you ask someone to install another special piece of software to get involved, and they have to setup an account, and then verify the account - it might just be too much.

FWIW: It's not new.

It used to be IRC until the Freenode takeover trashed two decades of established chat-support. That fiasco should have highlighted the risk of third party infrastructure, but oh well.

I think people rather like the community aspect. If the project is a significant portion of your life, a little realtime interaction feels good. And it is —in a few ways— better than IRC.

I'm not really defending it. I don't like it either. But we're not their parents. Let them do them.

Because Discord is currently great. It will get worse once it gets acquired or investors start making demands, but that's not now.
I've tried to make this argument in the past and gained no traction. What I did instead was to create self hosted chat things as a fallback for the times when Discord or Slack have a green status page but their applications fail to operate. Even light-weight daemons like uMurmur [1] or devzat [2] ssh-chat can be handy in a time of need if a quorum know to fall back to it, especially how simple they are to deploy. Self hosted tools are also handy when one wants to share links or text that should not be on 3rd party sites forever and for eternity. Such things may also be handy if some day the internet censorium gets a little bit out of hand.

[1] - https://github.com/umurmur/umurmur/wiki/Configuration

[2] - https://github.com/quackduck/devzat

Because it's free and easy. No complicated story here.
Because there's no alternative.

The UX of Matrix isn't there yet, as much as I wish it was. With Cinny the chat experience is pretty good, but you still don't have voice channels (the protocol is in the process of getting them, at least!).

Because they grew up on Discord, and because it's easier. It's easier to make the discord server, keep it running, and get people to join it.

I'd also prefer that people used Matrix, but hey, at least it's better than Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn.

I did a user journey and most users wanted to switch from gitter to discord.
Matrix, please!
oss tools are just annoying to use or bad ui. also, every time i have to use a mailing list i want to cry
Mailing lists will always be king. I don't get it either, Discord is proprietary, hosting your OSS project's infrastructure there just seems... idiotic.
Because the alterative (mostly Matrix) sucks.