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Discord killed support for WinXP

There goes the group chat while farming for gear...

published icon  |  category icon retro

tags icon games

Since reassembling the Diablo II squad at the end of 2020, we’ve been relying on the Discord voice sharing service to mumble, curse, and muse about our magic find percentage, resistances, and whatnot. Diablo’s in-game chat support is nice enough, but talking to your friends while playing is both faster and more fun.

As you might know by now, I’m a retro nerd. That means I play Diablo II on a proper PC, not on a Windows 10 laptop in “emulation mode”. I wish I could use the Windows 98 PC for that, but since we’re jammin' on the EuropeBattle.net D2 servers, the replacement executable sadly only runs in XP or higher. Oh well, still enough retro vibes for me, as I use one screen for both PCs anyway. But something dreadful happened a month ago. Really, really dreadful.

Discord stopped working on Windows XP.

I use the Basilisk browser on there, a pre-Servo Firefox open source XUL-based web browser. It’s based on the Goanna rendering engine and kind of a fork of good ol' Gecko - hence the name “Basilisk”. Although the website states it is only compatible with 64-bit operating systems, a 32-bit variant exists called the Serpent browser. New binaries are still being produced, the latest one being only a few days old. 32-bit forks of the Pale Moon browser, called New Moon, are also out there, being maintained by the same person.

Older versions of browsers come equipped with internal useragent strings that give away metadata, probably without you noticing. That’s how Discord decided for me it was time to move on. When attempting to log in, you’re greeted with the following pleasant message:

Unsupported Browser. You want to be able to talk to your friends, right? Switch to the latest Chrome, Firefox, Edge or download the Discord app to start talking right now!

Right. I hate sites or apps telling me what I can and cannot do. I get it, security and all, people should upgrade, not live in the past, stop using Internet Explorer, yadda yadda. But this is a retro machine! “Wow dude, pull that Ethernet cable, quick! It’s not safe!” In this interesting GitHub issue, someone says having a computer running XP connected to the internet “is nothing but irresponsible”. I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much. So, a simple reconfiguration of the user agent string fixes this. Go to about:config, configure a setting with key general.useragent.override.discord.com and value Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; rv:62.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/87.0 and you’re in.

Well, that worked up to a month ago. And then, Discord changed its internal speech transfer protocol that somehow renders my hack useless. Now, all I can see is “RTC Connecting” when attempting to join a voice channel. I tried both New Moon and the recent version of Serpent: same result.

This stinks.

Why do you need Discord on old machines?

Good question. To make this more enjoyable:

Some fellows enjoying a Diablo II session in Act II.

My friends play on modern machines - obviously. I refuse to do so - obviously. We need a chat protocol that supports both. Right now, I have to make do with the Discord app on a smartphone next to the computer that gets really hot after a few hours. I had to build a little stack of books to put the phone as close to my face as possible while still playing comfortable. Ridiculous. Yesterday, I resorted to simply opening Discord on my Mac and that worked OK.

But still, these are quick fixes, and I do not see why I can’t use old hardware if a “modern enough” browser lets me transfer data using TLS encryption. I have considered TeamSpeak-ish alternatives, but none work as easily or as well as a simple Discord voice channel. To be honest, I do not want to set up yet another server just to enjoy a bloody multiplayer retro gaming session.

If there is anyone out there having success with other means, I’d greatly appreciate the suggestions. Fleeting efforts like Talk32 are still miles off and Ripcord is Windows 7+ only. Until then, I guess placing a modern laptop next to an old desktop will have to do.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a level 36 Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!

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