As many of us know based on the past year, online communication requires a bit more work than in-person communication. Sometimes language can be taken out of context through text; even worse, sometimes connections slow to a halt, disrupting a voice or video call. In the context of the business world during COVID-19, these slowdowns in communication can result in frustration. Microsoft’s Teams platform took over from Skype for Business pre-pandemic, and became Microsoft’s dedicated VoIP program. Now, it looks like Microsoft might purchase Discord, another VoIP platform, for $10 billion.

What is Discord?

Discord rose to popularity over the past few years, after launching in 2015. Originally, Discord’s creator intended for the platform to be used in connection with online multiplayer videogames; this came after noticing the latency problems associated with typical online communication. Instead of relying on a singular server provided by a console, such as Xbox Live, Discord allows users to create their own servers. The servers are hosted on Discord’s back-end network, with datacenters spread across the world, to ensure connectivity. However, beyond simple VoIP communication, Discord allows users to create separate channels within a single server. In addition, Discord integrates both voice and text chat within its servers; this allows users to seamlessly pop in and out of conversations.

If this sounds a lot like what Microsoft provides through the latest Teams updates, you wouldn’t be wrong. Noting the popularity of Discord, Microsoft began adding to the team-based options for both voice and chat last year. A lot of these changes look and feel like they’re based on Discord; so, why can Microsoft do that, and more importantly, why does Microsoft want to buy Discord as well?

Microsoft’s Discord purchase driven by quality, trademarks

Based on my research, it doesn’t look like Discord has a patent portfolio; its founder is named on another patent from a previous company, but that’s all. As such, Microsoft can make Teams function as much like Discord as it pleases, based on Discord’s lack of patent protection. However, Microsoft recognizes that Discord has a user base of over 250 million and an instantly recognizable name. Moreover, Microsoft knows that Discord works, and knows its usefulness both on the Xbox, as well as for workplace communications.

Ultimately, Microsoft wants to buy Discord’s name and associated quality, instead of trying to make Teams into Discord Lite. We’ll see if the transaction ever happens, but Microsoft appears willing to pay $10 billion to absorb a competitor; this shows how valuable a company can be relying largely on trademark protection.