If you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of an incident going on at Reddit right now. In its wake, potential alternatives to Reddit are booming. I’ve tried out a bunch of them, and I’ll be giving you my thoughts on each.
I’ve had a Lemmy account (@email@example.com) for well over a year and I mod a small (and honestly, pretty inactive) community there, so I know the platform fairly well. The UI resembles “old Reddit” pretty closely, being fairly simple with the home page showing a feed of posts with upvote and downvote buttons on one side along with a small link or image preview on the other. Lemmy is open-source and federated using ActivityPub, making it part of the larger Fediverse. These are both points in its favor.
However, Lemmy has pretty basic features either missing or not implemented as fully as one would hope. There are no 2FA options to secure your account, no real privacy options, no way to migrate your account or export your account data, and no way to tag posts beyond specifying a community (Lemmy’s version of a subreddit) to post them to. Additionally, the UI can be a little clunky and unintuitive. As of this writing, new posts often appear at the top of my feed and can shift away or close the preview of the post I’m currently looking at. There is no way to turn off this autoloading feature as far as I can tell. Lemmy’s mod tools are also pretty basic, which will become only more of a problem as the platform continues to grow in popularity. Even now, one of the older and better-known Lemmy instances, Beehaw, has defederated from some of the new and growing Lemmy instances since they say federating with them makes moderating impractical. Additionally, Lemmy’s tools for discovering new communities are pretty basic. The search function never worked terribly well for me for this purpose and there are minimal sorting options on the “Explore Communities” page.
There’s also been a bit of controversy about the Lemmy developers’ political stances, with lemmygrad.ml being a openly pro-Communist instance, which has lots of pro-Russia and pro-China content on it. While lemmygrad is not the flagship instance of Lemmy (lemmy.ml is), lemmy.ml does federate with lemmygrad and lemmy.ml also tolerates similar content on their instance. As it stands, Lemmy is a decent Reddit clone, which as FOSS and part of the Fediverse can be hosted by anyone. However, its feature set has a lot of growing to do before it can be the new home to all the former Reddit users.
Kbin is the other Reddit-like platform on the Fediverse, which means that like Lemmy, it is open-source and federated. It is really neat that communities from Lemmy can be subscribed to from a Kbin account and magazines (Kbin’s version of subreddits) can be subscribed to from a Lemmy account. Kbin itself also has a pretty minimalist interface, but it seems much more deliberate and clean than Lemmy’s. The homepage is sleek, and like Lemmy has a feed of posts with upvote and downvote buttons along with a link/image preview next to each post. Kbin also has no 2FA options, though there are a few privacy toggles and more customization for your account overall compared to Lemmy. While Kbin’s general feature set and moderation features in particular are also lacking, Kbin is newer than Lemmy, which gives some more hope that these features will be developed in a reasonable time frame.
However, Kbin’s federation features feel much more “tacked on” when compared to Lemmy’s. There is no way to explore magazines outside of your instance and when posts from other instances appear on your feed, there’s no real indication that they are from a different instance at all. These are issues that will definitely have to be fixed if Kbin wants to make full use of its ActivityPub federation, which is one of its best features! I’m definitely going to keep a close eye on Kbin and I hope it can grow into a true federated version of Reddit, but as it stands currently, it’s not quite there yet.
Tildes is not part of the Fediverse, but it is open-source, not-for-profit, and committed to user privacy, so I have little reservation recommending it from that perspective. Tildes is also currently invite-only, and while that does make it a little harder to get in, it also seems to have succeeded in its goal of keeping the quality of discussion high. While invites aren’t particularly hard to find, adding even the little bit of friction to the sign up process does the job of deterring spammers, low-effort posters, and other bad actors. I got my invite by just asking someone on Mastodon who had posted with the #tildes tag saying they had invites, and while I’m too new of a user to have any invites to give out right now, feel free to reach out in the future if you’re looking for one.
Tildes’ UI is very minimalist and stylish, though perhaps a bit too minimalist for my taste. The goal seems to be a focus on text content rather than images, which is laudable, but also a bit more boring. However, as I said, the quality of the discussion on Tildes is high, so they seem to be doing something right. There is also no way to create new groups (Tildes’ version of subreddits) and all posts must be posted to one of the existing groups, though most popular topics are covered and tags can be added to your post to give some more topic specificity. Given all that, Tildes can’t really be considered a full-on Reddit replacement, but it is a really nice place, and may be exactly what many former Reddit users are looking for.
I just joined Squabbles recently and I can’t help but like it. I say “can’t help” because unlike all of the other platforms I’ve spoken about, Squabbles is not open-source and seems to simply be a new, centralized platform hoping to get some of Reddit’s migrating users. That said, Squabbles looks really nice. It has a colorful, yet plain design and is pleasant to scroll through. Squabbles’ feed design makes posts with pictures easy to see and also shows comments in a second column next to the posts in the feed. I have mixed feelings about that second feature since Squabbles’ lack of spoiler tags already led me to having a new episode of an anime I’ve been watching mildly spoiled. Squabbles describes itself as “combin[ing] the best parts of Twitter with the best parts of Reddit.” I think the idea is that like Twitter and unlike Reddit, individual users are easier to identify and follow, though this honestly isn’t too noticeable and seems more or less on par with how Reddit currently handles this.
Squabbles has lots of communities on a variety of topics (I started the Fediverse community) and so far the content being posted seems pretty decent. It definitely felt most like Reddit among the options I’ve tried to far. I’m in the somewhat complicated position of not really wanting to recommend Squabbles because I don’t think it fixes the core problems Reddit has, but also finding it hard not to because it’s a pretty well-done site that is closer to a Reddit experience than Tildes and less chaotic and more polished than Lemmy or Kbin. Squabbles also definitely has a pretty basic feature set, but it’s already doing a lot right.
For the adventurous types out there, I would encourage making an account on Kbin or Lemmy, just be sure to keep in mind their limitations. For those looking for a smaller, tech-savvy community more focused on text and discussion, Tildes is a great choice. If you’re simply looking for something that’s like Reddit, but isn’t actually Reddit, you could do worse than Squabbles, though if you’re trying to move away from centralized, for-profit platforms, I can’t really recommend it.