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open source social

Lemmy, the federated alternative of Reddit

I’ve got a confession to make. Since I left Google+ and Reddit two years ago I always missed the community approach of both social networks. Don’t get me wrong I love XMPP (or Movim, which is based on XMPP, in my case) and Mastodon, the Twitter alternative. I love their ease of use and the possibilities to communicate without a large tech company preying on my data. I love the ease to set up a chatroom or a microblog in Movim. And I love that they are federated. However both on Movim and Mastodon it’s hard for me to have a structured conversation about one single topic (e.g. cycling or 3dprinting). It’s for that reason that lately I’ve spend time on Lemmy.

Lemmy is easiest described as a federated Reddit alternative. This means that with Lemmy members can send text posts, links and images that can be up- or down voted by other members. Lemmy already consists of tens of instances and thousands of communities. Communities (the equivalent of subreddits) are the cornerstones of Lemmy. Popular topics like Linux, open source and privacy already have their own community. If a community doesn’t exist the user can easily create one. Just click Create Community, fill in a form and press Create and you’re done. Every post has to be posted in one of the communities. A huge advantage is that posts don’t get buried by hundreds of other posts in the timeline. As a consequences discussion threads are easy to follow.

The UI of Lemmy is minimalistic but very effective. The user is presented with a list of comments that are ordered by popularity. The comments can easily be filtered e.g to only show the new comments. Via a menu selection all the communities are shown and can be searched. Overall search is very well implemented. I use it a lot to learn about topics of interest to me that were discussed earlier.

Lemmy comes with a built in slur filter which I believe is a very good idea if you want to have civil discussions. Perhaps not everyone does agree with this filter but Lemmy is free and open source software so one can always create his own fork.

I’m currently on lemmy.ml which appears to be the most general purpose and the largest server in terms of subscribers but you can run your own server if you want to. The number of instances of Lemmy is growing (currently 29) and so are the number of users but only time will tell what portion of users remain active.

Besides the slur filter mentioned above the lemmy.ml instance comes with a Code of Conduct that is enforced by a team of moderators. Again a good idea for the above mentioned civil discussion. It’s worth mentioning that the moderators keep a public Modlog where one can keep track of all the actions taken by the moderators. A gesture of transparency that I haven’t seen on any social platform.

Speaking of discussion, although Lemmy is still pretty small in size, the discussions are excellent. Most of the times the comments are to the point, well informed and criticism is constructive. This makes Lemmy a vibrant community even though it’s relatively small.

The beauty is that Movim, Mastodon and Lemmy (and all other federated social networks) serve different purposes so I don’t have to choose. They can co-exist and enable people to optimize their online social needs all with free and open source software and all federated.

EDIT: This post was rewritten on 17th August of 2021 to include my experience with Lemmy over the last half year.