1. Ubiquity – Discord is universally available to non-tech people, on platforms they are know, and from sources that are familiar and simple. Discord is Discord, no matter where you go. Matrix is not JUST Matrix. It’s also a server like Synapse, and a client like Neochat, or Chatty, or Pidgin, or Element, or FluffyChat. This is damned confusing to new users.
2. Design Language – Discord has the same interface, no matter what platform you are on. It doesn’t rely on 3rd party client applications (all of which look and function differently – see above) to connect to the Discord server(s)
3. Low Bar to Entry – There is no technical knowledge required by the user, other than how to install and create an account on Discord.
4. Lack of Understanding re. Federation – Most users don’t know, don’t care, or don’t want to know about Federation, and it’s advantages over proprietary centralised services. It’s inconvenient to learn more, so they generally choose the path of least resistance, despite the potential issues.
5. Federation Instability – At any given time, any federated instance could temporarily or permanently drop it’s federation by the SysOp forgetting to renew a SSL Cert, or dropping too far behind in version numbers, or accidentally breaking something during an upgrade, or system updates/patches breaking the underlying Operating System. This leads to all sorts of instabilities in a network that is trying to be as close to instant as it can get. Messages may be lost, users disconnected, breaches can occur, any number of issues that just generally turn people off.
6. Hostile Userbase – A large proportion (not all obviously) of user groups and communities who are on Matrix are quite tech savvy, for us, that’s fine, we understand the mentality and accept it as impatience, or irritation and then discard it, not taking it personally. General users see it as hostility, and are not used to it. They take everything personally, and assume they are being attacked. I’ve seen it time and again.
7. Content – A lot of popular platforms like Twitch; YouTube; Steam; Games etc. are tightly integrated with Discord. This leads to a lot of popular content, and content creators on the Discord platform, and popular creators, bring the crowds. Like it or not, they are a huge draw for Discord, and Matrix just doesn’t have the clout; funding; or mainstream appeal that Discord does. If you want to meet with a mainstream audience, you need to be where the audience is.
This is not a rant, just trying to open a discussion, with thoughts about why the uptake isn’t higher amongst the general userbase. It may or may not apply to the FOSS community, but who knows, maybe?