My first experience with Lemmy was thinking that the UI was beautiful, and (the first instance I looked at) was asking people not to join because they already had 1500 users and were struggling to scale.

1500 users just doesn’t seem like much, it seems like the type of load you could handle with a Raspberry Pi in a dusty corner.

Are the Lemmy servers struggling to scale because of the federation process / protocols?

Maybe I underestimate how much compute goes into hosting user generated content? Users generate very little text, but uploading pictures takes more space. Users are generating millions of bytes of content and it’s overloading computers that can handle billions of bytes with ease, what happened? Am I missing something here?

Or maybe the code is just inefficient?

Which brings me to the title’s question: Does Lemmy benefit from using Rust? None of the problems I can imagine are related to code execution speed.

If the federation process and protocols are inefficient, then everything is being built on sand. Popular protocols are hard to change. How often does the HTTP protocol change? Never. The language used for the code doesn’t matter in this case.

If the code is just inefficient, well, inefficient Rust is probably slower than efficient Python or JavaScript. Could the complexity of Rust have pushed the devs towards a simpler but less efficient solution that ends up being slower than garbage collected languages? I’m sure this has happened before, but I don’t know anything about the Lemmy code.

Or, again, maybe I’m just underestimating the amount of compute required to support 1500 users sharing a little bit of text and a few images?


Ehhhhhhh. Using a relational database for Lemmy was certainly a choice, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad one.

Within Lemmy, by far the most expensive part of the database is going to be comment trees, and within the industry the consensus on the best database structure to represent these is… well, there isn’t one. The efficiency of this depends way more on how you implement it within a given database model than on the database model itself. Comment trees are actually a pretty difficult problem; you’ll notice a lot of platforms have limits on comment depth, and there’s a reason for that. Getting just one level of replies to work efficiently can be tricky, regardless of the choice of DBMS.

Looking at the schema Lemmy uses, I see a couple opportunities to optimize it down the road. One of the first things I noticed is that comment replies don’t seem to be directly related back to the top-level post, meaning you’re restricted to a breadth-first search of the comment tree at serving time. Most comments will be at pretty shallow depths, so it sometimes makes sense to flatten the first few levels of this structure so you can get most relevant comments in a single query and rebuild the tree post-fetching. But this makes nomination (i.e. getting the “top 100” or whatever comments to show on your page) a lot more difficult, so it makes sense that it’s currently written the way it is.

If it’s true (as another commenter said) that there’s no response caching for comment queries, that’s a much bigger opportunity for optimization than anything else in the database.

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