As lawmakers across the country try their best to legislate TikTok out of the US, its parent company, China-based ByteDance, has been undeterred and has set its focus on a new app for Gen-Z named Lemon8. The app is surging in the US right now, and as of the time of this writing has over 5 million downloads in the Google Play Store.
Lemon8 is not new, but it is for US users. Originally launched in Japan in 2020, Lemon8 is ByteDance’s response to a popular Chinese lifestyle app known as Xiaohongshu (or Little Red Book), which is largely popular with young women. By 2022, Lemon8 amassed over 5 million active monthly users across East Asia and was stealth launched in the US in February of this year as TikTok faced increasing pressure from US legislators over data privacy concerns. As it continues to gain popularity in the States, here’s what you need to know about Tiktok’s sister app.
What is Lemon8?
Not to beat a dead horse but every descriptor about Lemon8 calls it “Pinterest meets Instagram.” And it’s true. Combining the best aspects of 2016-era Instagram’s photo sharing with the type of stuff you’d find on Pinterest, Lemon8 is a social media app built for content curation. With an emphasis on photos over videos, Lemon8’s UI is perfect for those who enjoyed the pleasing, curated aesthetics of old Instagram and hated all the UI changes that were added in response to, ironically enough, TikTok.
The app also allows for long blog-style posts that place a heavy emphasis on lifestyle content such as food, fashion, health, and travel. While still in its infancy and not fully launched yet, Lemon8 is also a subtle vehicle for shopping, allowing fashion creators to tag clothes in their photos for users to find designs.
However, for a social media app, there’s a lack of social aspects. Lemon8 does not pretend to be something though and it is clearly focused on being a social media app directed explicitly toward content creators. Its authenticity is built on inauthenticity and according to the New York Times, the app’s vision is “to build the most inspiring and informative platform to discover, share, and bring ideas to life.”
Who owns Lemon8?
Despite being published under developer Heliophilia Pte. Ltd., Lemon8 is a ByteDance product. However, as Axios reports, Heliophilia is a private firm based in the same Singapore office as TikTok. ByteDance is, again, TikTok’s parent company and Lemon8 is one of three very popular apps the Chinese developer has released in the United States (the third being the video-editing app CapCut).
Is Lemon8 safe?
The app works as advertised, and there is no evidence so far that Lemon8 is a scam, or some piece of spying software. However, the app does reportedly share the same algorithm as TikTok.
Amid increasing regulatory heat, like the ban passed by the Montana legislature, ByteDance is making a concerted effort to attract creators to its new app. The company is compensating creators for posting content on the platform and has established a team in New York to manage partnerships with creators as part of its expansion strategy, according to a previous report by Insider.
With the RESTRICT Act being considered in Congress, which would ban TikTok and give the government carte blanche to ban any foreign app it deems “a national security risk,” the future of Lemon8 may seem uncertain. But given its rising popularity, it seems there will be no shortage of China-linked apps in the future seeking profit in the U.S. market.