The Lemon8 app happens to be the new elephant in the room for the US authorities. Of late, it has started a juggernaut run which has seen the free lifestyle app become the most downloaded app in its segment, in the Apple App Store.
What makes its rise even more uncanny, is the fact that it’s owned by ByteDance, the same Chinese company which owns TikTok. For the uninitiated, popular social media app TikTok is currently under heavy scrutiny in the US, as a nationwide ban seems to be on the cards. Only last week, we reported on Technowize that TikTok data privacy concern is causing serious trouble to the Chinese app, despite it managing to become a global enterprise.
In such a scenario, the ByteDance-owned Lemon8 app has become another serious concern for the US Congress which is currently scrutinizing TikTok and exploring options of a possible ban in the US. Let’s delve deeper with the story to discover Lemon8 and all the important aspects associated with it.
Lemon8 App: ByteDance Has An Ace Up Its Sleeve?
With an estimated total valuation of $66 billion, TikTok has almost a billion users in its kitty, spread across as many as 150 countries. But allegations of data mining and data breach have been chasing it like nothing, for the last few years. This is something which the app is desperately trying to brush aside, as it has already cost the app an indefinite ban in India, where it enjoyed a huge user base. For your information, it came quite close to serving a ban in the US, years back.
For TikTok, there’s a lot at stake in the US, as it has successfully completed more than 210 million downloads in the country, so far. But now the TikTok data privacy threat is being seen as a matter of national security. Just a few days back, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew was questioned in the U.S. Congress.
But now there’s a shocking revelation which has shed light to the curious case of the Lemon8 app. It happens to be TikTok’s parent company ByteDance’s relatively-new social media app, which has gained a huge traction recently. It is basically a photo-based app that has a rare resemblance to what can be called a blend of Instagram and Pinterest.
If you open up Lemon8, you will be bewildered to find videos that look like the ones we encounter on TikTok. Many social marketing pundits have also remarked that the app also reminds you of the Chinese social media and e-commerce giant Xiaohongshu, which translates to “little red book.”
Interestingly, the Lemon8 app has made serious inroads to the Asian markets after it made its debut in 2020. Having first launched in Japan, the app then traveled to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. Till date, the Lemon8 app has clocked almost 7.4 million and 5 million downloads in Thailand and Japan respectively.
It was only in February this year, Lemon 8 arrived in the US and the UK. The serious push on the part of ByteDance to make it popular overlaps with TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew appearing in the US Congress for a trial of his company, as the better part of the 290,000 downloads in the U.S took place in late-March, as revealed by data.ai.
But what is alarming, is the fact that alike TikTok, Lemon8 too, collects user data — such as IP address, browsing history, device identifiers and other information. This trait has certainly made the eyebrows raise so far as the US authorities are concerned, who are accusing ByteDance of passing on user data to the Chinese government, aiding espionage activities in the US.
The Lemon8 app, which has 16 million downloads in total, is available on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store. However, in both places, its owner has been mentioned as Heliophilia Pte. Ltd., which identifies itself as a Singapore-based company that shares the exact same address as ByteDance and TikTok.
These ‘scary’ pieces of information has definitely forced the people close to the US security council to think on different lines, so far as their way to deal with ByteDance and TikTok is concerned. Meanwhile, Lemon 8, which categorizes posts under different segments, like fashion, beauty and food, has about 4.25 million active users in the U.S, as of now.
Though the app allows users to post videos up to 60 seconds, most users appear to end up just reposting TikToks. One could spot the use of Canva-like graphic design in most of the posts on the fast-growing social media platform, which has both a “following” and “for you” page like its ‘better half’ TikTok.
Among the sea of topics, nail inspiration, outfit details, food recipes and workout routines manage to stand out on Lemon8. But what’s concerning is the fact that ByteDance is reported to be aggressively hiring New York-based partnership leads to work with Lemon8 creators who make content for the verticals of lifestyle, fashion, beauty and food.
From educating creators to establishing growth and analyzing user insights, the app is believed to have been running all such exclusive tailor-made programs to ensure it leaves no stone unturned in establishing itself on strong foundations in the country. One must note that all these are happening at a time, when the Biden administration has told TikTok that either its Chinese owners divest their stakes or it gets ready to face the chin music.
Erich Andersen, TikTok and ByteDance’s general counsel, has recently stated that ByteDance will keep up enhancing the user experience of Lemon8, while adhering to the security guidelines of the country — “We’re obviously going to do our best with the Lemon8 app to comply with U.S. law and to make sure we do the right thing here. But I think we got a long way to go with that application — it’s pretty much a startup phase.”
Meanwhile, another “all-in-one” video editing app from ByteDance named CapCut, which has 60 million downloads in the U.S. and 940 million globally, has also come under scrutiny, of late.
In such shady circumstances, the call for a bipartisan bill in the Senate, called the ‘RESTRICT Act’, which will not impose a direct ban on TikTok but would empower the Commerce Department to review and potentially restrict foreign threats to technology platforms, gets louder.
In this regard, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, who has sponsored the bill along with Republican Sen. John Thune, clarified that the legislation would make it quite easier to tackle such potentially ‘risky’ apps like Lemon8. He was quoted saying, “For too long, our government has been playing a game of Whac-A-Mole when it comes to addressing the various foreign technology threats popping up all around us.”
Warner further added that “The RESTRICT Act would establish a risk-based, intelligence-informed process to evaluate and mitigate the risks posed by tech from adversarial nations, whether that be Huawei, TikTok, Lemon8, or the next viral technology product pushed by an authoritarian nation.”
In such a topsy-turvy situation, the next few days appear critical for TikTok and ByteDance, whose fate would be more or less decided in the US. Though TikTok has activated SOS plans in the form of the $1.5 billion ‘Project Texas’ for the US and the other is the €1.2 billion ‘Project Clover’ for the European users, the maze seems way too difficult this time. Long-time accusations of monitoring user keystrokes could result in a key stroke from the US Congress that would eventually make TikTok disappear from the US business map.
We will keep a close tab on how it unfolds and reach out to you with exclusive updates. Stay tuned with us for more top stories from the world of tech.