I have basically locked myself out of Steam and Discord

6 minute read Published: 2021-03-12

Recently I've acquired a new domain and decided to change my email domain. The painful part of this is not handling the migration with my social circles1, rather moving all services I've subscribed from the old to the new address. This is the reason why people stick with their email address possibly forever.

§ Steam straight bans my domain

At some point in my checklist, I had Steam to update. Ok let's do it. But here it is the first bitter surprise. They don't allow my new domain (I guess for spam reasons or whatever, they don't provide a reason).

I've tried argumenting with the human bot on the other end of the customer support to no avail, so I'll paste here the full support ticket. Please click the image and enjoy this conversation. I was less "nice" than usual because I knew It was going to be a waste of time.

Why? Easy! Because fuck you

I hate when customer support don't even bother to explain the reason behind their policies. Sad to leave Steam but, as I explained to the support, I have no interest in opening a free email address somewhere just for them. It's the first time I see my domain refused so I think they're in the wrong.

§ Discord wants my phone number

The second kick in the privates arrives a couple of days later when I changed the email address connected to a Discord account. The workflow is easy:

Their email was not really readable in my textual email client so I copy&pasted the link (quote-printable format) and tested a couple of times before decoding it correctly.

After successfully confirming my new email address with no error whatsoever, I tried to login again and now they're asking me also for the phone number, stating that something funny happened:

Close translation: Something is funny here

I suspect I might have triggered some alarm because I've fumbled a bit with the confirmaton link. Is this my bad or do they have a dumb spam detection system?

Their customer support was completely unhelpful, I won't paste here the whole email thread, but the summary is:

ME: I can't login anymore after confirming my new email.
    Now I'm asked to enter a phone number
SUPPORT: sometimes this happens because of connections from a VPN
    or a proxy. Please do as you're asked and verify the account
    with a phone number
ME: I use neither a VPN nor a proxy, I have 2FA activated. I can't
    verify my account with a phone number. Please unlock my account.
SUPPORT: We can't unlock the account if you don't verify it with a
    phone number. Please do so.
ME: I don't have a phone number to use for this purpose. Please close
    my account and all data associated.

A very constructive conversation.

Honestly, not a big deal, I won't bother creating another account as I suspect that that would require a phone number either way.

This situation incredibly mirrors what happened in 2019 to this person. And together with what I've read a while ago about cordless (a third-party Discord client closing down the project, here's why), I kind of see a pattern of Discord tightening the leash on their users more and more aggressively. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point they will require a phone number for all new accounts.

If I cared about having a more prominent social presence I could jump on Twitter and shitpost my way to the resolution, pointing out their dumb policy: by having Hacker News pick up the steam and the customer service contacting me again to solve the issue.

UPDATE 2022-07-21: As of July 2022, Discord keeps on harassing their users with the phone number requirement (link).

§ Ten little indians ...

The bottom line is that surely these companies are free to have business on their terms, it's their product.

I am free to do the same (especially when the cost of abandoning a platform is so ridiculously small) but more important is to read these small incidents and think if relying on a third party is always a safe bet. What if I used Discord to do some actual work in a community? I wouldn't have much choice than comply with their unreasonable request.

Is it safe using Slack in your organization? Github for your code repositories? AWS for your service hosting? Probably yes, but always let's ask ourselves the question: what if a service suddenly locks me out (for any reason, even only a badly managed case of complying with regulations) or changes the terms of usage? Before thinking this is unlikely, think again. And again.

§ ... and then there were none

Regardless, people accepting the compromise should know the place they are in. All the communities that flocked to Discord when Slack was sold to Salesforce, will have to migrate again at some point. The search for the always free-as-in-just-gimme-that alternative it's endless. You'll always be at the mercy of ever changing terms and conditions.

There are two ways to retain customers: either by providing a good service or by inertia and network effect. Which service do you think will be incentivized to be better?

We should learn to pay for the services that we use. When you're a paying customer companies should think twice before infuriating their paying customer base. Else, if you don't want to shell out money, pay with your time and self host your services (additional bonus: maybe in the process you'll learn something new).

Just let's realize that there is no free lunch here.


they gave up on me and now barely raise an eyebrow when I embark in yet another disruptive migration