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The Thunderbolt

What the Heck is Lemon8?


Mar 7, 2023, a bipartisan collection of 12 senators proposed a bill that would lay the groundwork for a nationwide TikTok ban because of concerns over national security. If signed into law, the bill would force the company to divest its stock and effectively sever ties with the Chinese government.

If ByteDance – the company that owns TikTok – refuses to do so, they could potentially face a nationwide ban. Needless to say, the company does not want to do this. The U.S. is TikTok’s biggest market and would face serious financial consequences if banned here. As the app’s CEO Shou Zi Chew was being questioned by congress last week, ByteDance announced their new “backup” app designed to replace TikTok in the United States in the case of a ban: Lemon8.

A self-described “content sharing platform with a youthful community,” Lemon8 soared to the top of the Apple app store today, bypassing Youtube, Gmail, and Pinterest in downloads. Though designed initially as a replacement for TikTok, it feels much more similar to Instagram. The content as of now is fairly limited in its scope and was very clearly designed for a very specific audience. Fashion, makeup, and interior design are what the app is advertised for and, from what I can tell, makes up the majority of the content on it.

The app itself is very simply designed and features a yellow-and-white color scheme. When you first create your account, the only categories you have to choose from are Fashion, Skincare, Food, Travel, Wellness, Perfume, Home, and Pet, which is very much a testament to the kind of content you’ll see on the app. Like Tiktok, there’s a Following tab and a For You tab at the top of the app, with an “add” button at the bottom of the interface. The iconography is suspiciously similar to Instagram’s. The most interesting difference between the ByteDance companies is the types of content they each contain. As of right now, Lemon8 does not feature any video content, making it feel very similar to Pinterest and not at all similar to TikTok.

The app was very quietly launched and despite its immediate success has not reported spending any money on overt advertising for it. However, there has been a surprising (suspicious?) amount of non-sponsored endorsement for it on its sister platform. Many TikTok users will have noticed large creators pushing the app over the last few days, many of whom are being paid by ByteDance to also use Lemon8 and artificially generate content for people downloading the app. Most of these users describe it as a “mix between Instagram and Pinterest.”

Even though it’s still relatively unknown in the United States, it was released earlier in southeast Asia and already has a large community in Japan and Taiwan. The app originally got a soft launch in March of 2020 but was not fully released until sometime in the last few weeks. Currently, about 40% of the app’s users are in Japan.

Ironically, Lemon8 could also be in danger of a ban in the near future. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy noted that the TikTok-ban-bill is the first of potentially many that are targeting foreign companies over “security issues.” Depending on how the current proposal goes, Lemon8 could be banned at the same time under the same set of rules. As of now, the app is also privately owned.

Although they already have an audience on TikTok, I personally doubt Lemon8 is going to go anywhere in the long run. I think it will be a flash in the pan like BeReal or Vine because of the narrow audience it caters to. It’s very doubtful there will be a TikTok ban, but if there is we’ll probably all just be screwed.

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About the Contributor
Elijah Harker, Editor-in-Chief
Editor in Chief of The Thunderbolt, class of '24. I keep bees and collect typewriters. I am often confused

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    calixApr 10, 2023 at 3:08 PM

    Even though I am not a fan of TikTok, I don’t see any actual reason for it to be banned. All the senators’ reasons are complete speculation and their questions are even more insane.