CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

What's Lemon8? TikTok's Sister App Is Already on the Rise

The app could help you achieve your dream aesthetic.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
Expertise Web hosting | Operating systems | Applications | Software Credentials
  • Apple software beta tester, "Helps make our computers and phones work!" - Zach's grandparents
Zachary McAuliffe
5 min read
Yellow Lemon8 logo

Lemon8 and TikTok are owned by ByteDance, but the apps are pretty different.


While many US lawmakers discuss a TikTok ban, another app, owned by the embattled platform's parent company ByteDance, is making waves. Lemon8 is one of the most downloaded lifestyle apps in Apple's App Store and has over 5 million downloads in the Google Play store.

"Lemon8 is a place for young creatives to share a diversity of content from fashion, makeup, food and travel, to homewares, pets and anything else you can imagine," the app's description reads in both stores.

Here's what you need to know about Lemon8.

Note: I reached out to ByteDance for this story, and the company did not respond for comment.

What is Lemon8?

Lemon8 post from user Ken showing a bed with a neon light on one wall and photos hanging on another wall

Lemon8 posts can contain text to help label objects in the post.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Lemon8 is a video- and photo-sharing platform that eschews the vertical-scrolling format of TikTok in favor of a Pinterest board-style format. But what Lemon8 and TikTok do have in common is both have Following and For You tabs to show you posts from creators you follow and posts the app thinks you will like.

Lemon8's content is split into six topic tabs, plus a seventh tab called All. The other tabs are Fashion, Beauty, Food, Wellness, Travel and Home. These tabs can be found across the top of your screen, and tapping into these tabs shows you recommended and suggested posts. 

Posts can be swipeable photo collections like in Instagram, or TikTok-style videos. Some creators add text to their photos to label clothing or a product. Some will also include the price of the item in the text. 

How is Lemon8 different from TikTok and other apps?

Lemon8 is different from other apps in terms of what is posted and how it's presented.

Lemon8 has a lot of influencer ads and product recommendations. It's difficult to tell what is and isn't sponsored content, and this appears to be the norm across the app. TikTok also has sponsored content, but usually these are marked as such in the bottom-left corner. 

A list of hashtags in the app Lemon8

Memes don't seem to be catching on in Lemon8.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

There aren't a lot of memes or jokes on Lemon8 compared to other apps, either. You can find memes on Lemon8, but as of mid-April, various hashtags associated with "memes," like "funnymemes" and "catmemes," had less than 5,000 views combined. The hashtag "memes" had the most views with 2,444. This could be because Lemon8 is still catching on in the US, but my suspicion is Lemon8 isn't meant for memes. It's meant to be more of a guidebook to help you achieve a certain lifestyle or aesthetic. 

There's also a lot of writing in Lemon8. For example, post captions might include instructions for a recipe or a deeper breakdown of an outfit. TikTok captions can have useful information, but those captions are more about connecting posts to hashtags to get more views and don't necessarily add new information to the TikTok post. Lemon8 uses captions in a similar way to Instagram posts, but Lemon8 captions have one key difference from Instagram: templates. 

Lemon8's template page with Fashion, Shopping Finds and Beauty across the top of the screen and other headings like Date Night Outfit ideas, Charming Hangout Outfit Ideas for Ladies and How to Style below

Lemon8 templates can help you quickly make, or give you an idea of what to include in, captions.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Lemon8 lets you use templates for your posts to help you quickly format and to give you an idea of what to caption your post. There are caption templates for fashion, shopping finds, beauty, food and travel.

Lemon8 reminds me of a mashup between the magazines Martha Stewart Living, Muscle & Fitness and Travel + Leisure. You can find some useful tips in Lemon8 to help you achieve a desired aesthetic or find some vacation inspiration, but it's not clear what is and isn't an ad.

What are people saying about Lemon8?

People's reaction to Lemon8 is seemingly positive so far. One TikTok creator posted a video calling Lemon8 "Pinterest, but interactive." Another said Lemon8 is a combination of Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok.

However, this positivity could be artificially inflated. ZDNet reports that many TikTok posts about Lemon8 have described the app with similar language, making some believe ByteDance paid these creators. 

And some Lemon8 creators' claims make this theory sound more viable. One Lemon8 creator told Insider that ByteDance paid them to post on the app. Two other Lemon8 creators showed Insider emails that outlined the app's payment structure. 

Should you download Lemon8?

Lemon8 is free so even if you're a little curious you can download and try the app. Just know the app's posts resemble instructional guides more than memes to share, and many posts feel like advertisements. 

Who owns Lemon8?

ByteDance, the Chinese tech company that owns TikTok, also owns Lemon8. According to ZDNet, ByteDance is positioning Lemon8 to be an Instagram rival as more users stop using, or abandon, Meta's app. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a leaked internal memo from Meta showed that Instagram engagement was declining. ByteDance executives could be hoping to capitalize on this by giving Instagram users an alternative app in the form of Lemon8. And while Lemon8 was released globally in 2020, the app's recent growth might show ByteDance's gamble is paying off.

What's Lemon8's privacy policy?

Lemon8 posts with the headings A Weekend in New York, Heaven on Earth! Swiss Alps, Grand Teton National Park and Pretty in Pink: Cherry Blossom Season

Lemon8's travel tab can give you inspiration for your next getaway.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Most of Lemon8's privacy policy seems standard for social media apps. It states Lemon8 collects personal and location information to provide you with a better app experience. Some collected information includes your IP address and browsing history. But part of the app's privacy policy might raise eyebrows.

"The personal information we collect from you may be stored on a server located outside of the country where you live," the policy reads. The company has servers around the world, according to the policy, so your information could be stored in any of them.

This is different from how Lemon8's sister app TikTok stores some user's data. The company stores US-based user data in Oracle servers. TikTok CEO Shou Chew said ByteDance employees in China can access this data, but with "robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval" overseen by a US-based security team. 

Will the Restrict Act hurt Lemon8?

That depends. The US Senate introduced a bill called the Restrict Act earlier this year. If passed, the bill would give the US Commerce Department the ability to ban or restrict apps from China, according to Politico. While the bill is a response to TikTok, it could also endanger apps like Lemon8. 

For more on social media, check out how you can use social media for good and how social media apps like Bereal and Mastodon might be the next big thing.

Watch this: Watch TikTok CEO's Opening Statement at Congress