So, I've been around Discord long enough to recognize a very clear pattern:
1. Discord announces a new system that they really care about.
2. This system requires a form to be filled, and a manual verification process by Discord staff
3. The forms get absolutely slammed by thousands of people, only because they want a badge
4. Discord freaks out and pulls out of the program, or makes it so hard to access that very few people can apply, making it unrealistic or of very little use.
5. People get angry they can no longer get a fancy badge.
Example of this include: Hypesquad (O.G., then the new version, until Discord just let anyone have a hypesquad badge easily wherein it got diluted into pointless oblivion). The Partner system. Verified Games. Bug Hunters. And now, we have Verified Bot Dev which resulted in the same sort of action.
The unfortunate reality is that if you're offering a "unique badge", people will just want the badge and will take any step necessary to have it.
So what's the solution? A custom badge system. Let users create badges for themselves, or a system where server owners can assign badges. You can even make money from that straight up, if you so desire.
Custom User Badges
For a small fee, users can create their own custom badge with their own icons, tooltip, and URL. This fee is per-badge, which means that while people could "abuse" the system for advertisement, it would certainly also abuse your income numbers. A limit can be applied to how many badges a user can create (3? 5?) and they could be visually separated from existing badges to indicate they are user-generated.
For a small fee, a server owner may create, and assign, custom badges for their members. This would work similarly to Server Boosts. This can either only appear within the server itself to prevent abuse, or it could be global assuming either a verification process (but that's as doomed to fail as all the other systems) or through a larger fee.
To entice server owners to participate, server owners would have to pay a fee for the system to be enabled, but when a user purchases such a badge, a small part of this purchase would go towards the server owner.
Server badges should be accessible by bots on the server, both to view server badges, but also to read a member's badges (to provide access to channels and features in a programmatic way).
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