Search results for

All search results
Best daily deals

Affiliate links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

Looking for a Reddit alternative? Lemmy tell you, they currently kinda suck

The multiverse of federated apps isn't quite ready yet.
By

Published onJune 16, 2023

lemmy home
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

If you spend most of your day online, you probably visit Reddit once or a dozen times daily. It’s my go-to spot to catch up on people’s thoughts on the latest breaking news and trends. I depend on it when searching for a topic instead of relying on Google Search recommendations. But the recent moderator-led shutdowns have had me exploring Reddit alternatives in case things get even worse.

For those not up to speed, Reddit recently raised the prices for access to its API. Not a very surprising move considering that the company is heading for an IPO and has a cash crunch. However, the increased pricing is so high that the platform has essentially killed some of the biggest third-party Reddit apps. This brings us to the earlier problem of moderators revolting and shutting down some of the most popular subreddits in protest. While some took part in a temporary shutdown, other subreddits have committed to staying offline permanently until certain controversial policies are rolled back.

It’s rare to see anarchy break lose on a social media network, but the internet’s most comprehensive water cooler, or hell hole, depending on your choice of subreddits, has a bit of a problem on its hands — one that has been further exacerbated by incendiary comments from its CEO.

With all of this in motion, it’s the perfect time for Reddit alternatives to shine. So I spent a week trying out Lemmy, a Reddit-like platform that is gaining some amount of traction, to see if it can match up to the actual Reddit experience.

Are you exploring Reddit alternatives?

5315 votes

What is Lemmy?

lemmy world on an iPhone
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

As a casual observer of free and open-source software (FOSS) and open-source development, I’ve had my eye on the growing universe of federated social platforms built on independently hosted servers that can talk to each other. I even tried out and promptly quit Mastodon, one of the OGs of the ‘fediverse’, during last year’s Twitter meltdown.

While I’ve been intrigued by federated alternatives to Reddit like Lemmy and Kbin, my interest levels catapulted during the ongoing Reddit crisis, and I finally jumped into the Lemmyverse. I’m not kidding; that’s literally what one of the servers is called.

There's a growing 'fediverse' of open-source social media apps.

Landing on the Lemmy website points you towards joining a server or running your server. That’s far from the user-friendly list of popular threads that pop up when you land on the Reddit homepage. I poked around the website a bit and landed on lemmy.world, one of the more popular servers.

However, here’s where the experience started getting even more confusing. Unlike Reddit’s approach of categorization using subreddits, Lemmy instances are mostly entire servers that act as catch-all versions of subreddits.

lemmy map
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Sure, there are categorization tools like Lemmy map that let you look up instances, but the Matrix-like grid will certainly not make things any easier for the average user. Even after logging into Lemmyworld, it took me a while to figure out that the local tab restricts all conversations to discussions on the Lemmyworld server. Switching the tab to all and catching up on discussions happening in the broader multiverse of Reddit alternatives is also possible. Still, there’s no visual identifier that guides you toward it.

Unlike Reddit, Lemmy instances are individual servers that come together like an interweb of subreddits.

Unlike Reddit, which, for the sake of simplification, runs on one server and has a series of interest-based sub-forums called subreddits, Lemmy is a whole different beast that left me more confused than impressed. In fact, Lemmy is a series of sub-forums that are entirely distinct yet connected to each other. The technical aspect of building a social network that behaves like a BitTorrent hive tickles my inner geek, and even Instagram seems to be looking into ActivityPub as the center of its upcoming text-based social platform, but the current reality is very different.

The future might be federated, but it’s not here yet

lemmy errors
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The single Lemmyworld server has so far presented me with a mix of memes, tech news, music recommendations, and more. Over the last week, I’ve spent time exploring more servers like tchncs.de, lemmy.ml, and ArtistsLounge, but the overwhelming feeling is that of an unorganized forum than an actual Reddit replacement. Try as I might, I missed the curation and consolidation of Reddit, where content is batched up into similar topics.

Discoverability remains a major concern on even the best Reddit alternatives.

Perhaps, I didn’t find the right servers. However, that also brings up the problem of discovery or the lack of it. Lemmy’s free and open nature means that no server is beholden to a set of rules. Nor does it have to abide by a standardized nomenclature, which complicates finding niche interests. I have yet to find standalone replacements for the music recommendation, art, and history subs I follow on Reddit.

It doesn’t help that the servers are constantly going through a series of teething issues. In the week so far, I’ve seen servers go down in response to the greater interest in the platform. While a consumer platform would get called out for it, a federated platform run by users can’t be held to the same rules — unfortunately.

Similarly, there is a significant lack of diversity in content, and the sheer number of steps needed to get to the content makes it obvious to me that it won’t improve anytime soon.

lemmy explorer
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The federated nature of the platform also means that you should be able to view a current post from the entire multiverse of Lemmy instances, but that wasn’t always my experience. I’m not alone here, and I’ve already come across people complaining on Reddit that the federated platforms aren’t robust enough to synchronize real-time messages.

My lack of trust in the decentralized Reddit-alternative universe was further exacerbated when, at the time of this writing, I discovered that one of the servers I’d found interesting had decided to defederate itself from Lemmy.

The ‘fediverse’ of Reddit alternatives reminds me of the early days of the internet

beehaw lemmy defederation
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

My personal experience might not reflect everyone else’s experience, but using Lemmy took me back to the days of Internet Relay Chat (IRC). There’s something endearing about a gang of privacy, open-source, and anti-corporation nerds getting together to create a social platform. However, it’s clear that the platform is far from ready to be a consumer-oriented product. Not only does it lack polish, but it lacks the diversity of content, polished apps, and ease of access needed to hit consumer momentum.

There's something endearing about a bunch of tech nerds getting together to make a social media network, but the current solutions lack polish.
As a social platform, Lemmy offers nothing drastically better or different than Reddit. Which, again, I suspect, will be detrimental to its growth. The average person doesn’t care about API pricing; they want their memes. Nor do they care about running their own instance of a social network.
All in all, Lemmy comes across as what a utopian Reddit should be. Free of corporate control, with the ability to run your instances. But unless something changes dramatically, it’ll suffer the same fate as Mastodon or Bluesky. I can’t see it gaining any traction beyond those in the know unless serious efforts are made to simplify it for the average user.

You might like