/u/charliewonders and myself are the developer/designer duo behind narwhal for reddit (http://getnarwhal.com/) /r/getnarwhal

We saw the request in https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/6d1b1l/ama_request_those_who_have_created_the_more/dhzxtb2/?context=3 and we are here to answer any questions you have!

We launched narwhal for reddit a couple years ago as a fresh design take on reddit for iOS 7. Since then, we've been improving it to be a gesture-based efficient and simple viewer of all reddit content

Comments: 104 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

KrlosParra107 karma

Hi guys! I gotta say that from all the reddit apps available, narwhal has become my favorite! You guys nailed with with features like gesture based options.

What do you see in the future? Are you guys thinking of expanding your portfolio of apps or just focus on nawwhal to make it even better?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

det0ur40 karma

Thanks for being an awesome user of narwhal :)

We always have a ton of different ideas for apps, but we always just keep spending more time on narwhal. This has always been a nights and weekend sort of project for us outside our normal day job so its hard to fit in time for anything else besides improving narwhal.

Hopefully we will have some other apps in the future!

det0ur100 karma

To answer the questions from the initial AMA request:

  1. What initially motivated you to put (I assume) quite a lot of effort into this free app that alot of people use?

We made the app because we use reddit all the time and weren't satisfied with the other apps out there at the time circa early 2015.

  1. How has it benefited you?

We enjoy making an app that a fair amount of people get to use to waste time and look at cat memes :P

In all seriousness though, its just been awesome to grow a small community of our own users who help us make the best app that we can.

  1. Is it one person or a team of people?

We are a duo of /u/charliewonders and myself

  1. Who are you?

We are two guys who like reddit a lot :)

  1. Was it worth it, though you may be generally unknown as a publisher?

Yes, definitely worth it. We have put thousands of hours into narwhal at this point, but its something that I use every day along with tons of other people.

somewhat_accurate42 karma

Hi! Really love your app, definitely the most used app on my phone, so I'd like to thank you for your hard work.

I also would like to ask you whether it would be possible to implement an option to lock portrait orientation in the app with the exception of the media viewer and in-app browser? I hope you don't mind me asking this question here, it's just an option that for me personally is keeping Narwhal from being pretty darn perfect and something I miss from the times of Alien Blue.

Again, thank you for your hard work and all the best to you :)

det0ur27 karma

We've talked about this in the past and have plans to do it. It is just pretty difficult to get this to work bug free which is why we've put it off.

SixQuidSquid38 karma

What's next?

Sent from narwhal :)

det0ur52 karma

Oh man, there is always soooo much to build. We get a ton of feedback in /r/getnarwhal and try to record it all on our trello board. The most recent requests that we have been seeing the most of are:

  1. Autoplaying GIFs in the main feed
  2. Reworking our implementation of search
  3. More UI customization
  4. Improve user profiles
  5. Mod features

compier12 karma

Thanks for making narwal! What was the hardest part of making the app?

det0ur24 karma

It has certainly been a challenging road thus far, but the hardest part has definitely been trying to support all of the reddit markup. Reddit's version of markdown is designed around using HTML/CSS, but iOS uses completely different tech to display text.

Figuring out how to support tables, formatting, superscript, etc. has been challenging and still has some kinks, but we are continually working to make it better!

Qutzy11 karma

I just switched from iOS to an android phone... I was so so bummed that narwhal wasn't on the play store. Is there another app with similar swipe-based controls that you know of? It was just really smooth/easy to use and i need it back.

det0ur10 karma

To be honest, I don't know much about the android offerings, but I have heard the names relay and sync with very positive reviews.

InukChinook10 karma

If you were to convince a user to switch to your app from, say, RiF, how would you do so?

det0ur32 karma

I'd say that most people convert to narwhal after only a few minutes of use! We provide an extremely efficient way to browse content and perform any action you would like to on it.

Swipe to the left to upvote. Swipe right to save it for later. Long press to open in safari. 3D Touch for a quick preview.

And we allow you to customize a TON of stuff in the app while keeping it simple. Re-arrange the menu, change the app icon, change behavior of how images/video are loaded, etc.

paursk8 karma

Were you able to make a significant amount of money with narwhal?

det0ur24 karma

Well I still have a day job so I'll let you extrapolate from that ;)

In all seriousness, we really do it because we love reddit, and developing apps is fun!

Knowbuddycares7 karma

Just stopping by to say thank you for the awesome app and continued updates. I love what you've done with 3D Touch and can't wait for the auto-playing gifs feature/option when scrolling through the front page.

Narwhal for life!

And since automod says I have to post a question - what other apps have you guys developed or do you recommend? Not necessarily Reddit-related.

det0ur5 karma

Hmmm good question. Ironically I don't use that many apps on my phone. Mostly narwhal ha.

An app I've been playing with lately is Wander, which is a photo journaling app.

iroll20s5 karma

Do you pull a lot of tail when you tell people you created narwhal? Easily the best iOS reader.

det0ur1 karma

Haha. My girlfriend has been very supportive of me throughout this whole endeavor :)

Ed_Shakestwain4 karma

What was/is the most difficult part for you guys to get it up and running? Did you guys already have a ton of background in coding or app development when yall started? How many days do yall wait to pick off a scab?

det0ur13 karma

The most difficult part was getting the experience right with the design and interactions. It is always a challenge to have an app that is simple to use, but powerful and easy to configure.

We both had a ton of design and development experience prior to starting. I actually used to work for Apple and we had both made other apps for clients in the past together.

Gotta let it fall off naturally!

n00byn4t3r4 karma

Love the app! I tried many different ones after Alien Blue got outdated but this one is the only one I was able to switch to permanently (because it's actually better)!

I have one question/feature request though. Sometimes people post a large detailed comment way in to a comment chain, but at that point the comment is really small on the screen (because of the way comment threads are displayed). In Alien Blue you could tap a comment to make it as wide as your display, would it be possible to add something similar?

det0ur1 karma

Yea, we'd definitely be open to something like that. In the meantime, you can swipe and hit view parent which will bring it onto a new screen.

J5537383 karma

How do you come up with new features to add? Do you use the app then decide, "hmm I wish I could do this?" Or is it pretty hard to think of new things as you're using the app you've created? A desensitization of sorts.

Also, I'd like to add that I like the "canvas" or "slideshow" feature other apps had, but instead of only images, it can include links. Like swipe right for the next link, like browsing through your photos but it's your front page. I like the scrolling front page but sometimes the scroll and tap then back then tap is just too much work. I want to reddit and quickly as possible dammit lol.

det0ur3 karma

Some of it does come from personal use since we are on narwhal so much.

However, most of our new features come through feedback mostly in our community at /r/getnarwhal.

HeyItsShuga3 karma

Hey, thanks for the AMA! Being a previous Alien Blue user, I love Narwhal. The 3D Touch support and gesture integration really tops it off! Great job on it!

Now a few questions for the team (feel free to answer whatever ones you want, whether it's just one or all of them):

1) What are your plans for the future of Narwhal? Anything you all want to see implemented?

2) Do you plan on push notifications, or is that not possible?

3) Especially with the new profiles and mobile support from Reddit Mobile, do you plan on somehow incorporating some of those features into Narwhal, or are your not interested/can't think of a good way how to?

4) Do you have plans to make clients for other services, such as Twitter?

5) Why did you pick the name Narwhal?

det0ur5 karma

1) We want to keep making it better with each update. Feedback is super important to us so we want to implement the things our community wants the most.

2) We have local notifications currently. We'd like to improve them in the future, but it would be a lot of work.

3) We'd definitely like to overhaul our user profiles in narwhal!

4) No, not currently. Narwhal keeps us plenty busy

5) Its a fun callback to an early meme on reddit :)

conorhardacre3 karma

Why should I switch from Alien Blue to Narwhal?

edit: just tried it out, and I think its a really strong option and competitor. I won't be switching from Alien Blue as I like the press and hold thumbnail to quick preview an image, which Narwhal doesn't offer, but if one could get used to just using Narwhal with images all loaded view I would probably recommend

det0ur3 karma

We have all the best features of Alien Blue packaged up in an app that is easier to use, nicer to look at, and faster all around!

Try it out for a few minutes. I bet we will convert you

Z_as_in_Zebra2 karma

Thank you for this! I've tried several different apps and was very happy when I discovered Narwhal, it had everything I was looking for! My question, and maybe I'm totally missing it, is there a way to report a post? I know how to report a comment but I've tried reporting spam posts but couldn't figure out how.

det0ur1 karma

If you tap the three dots at the top a menu will show where you can report posts

WykksOnWykks2 karma

Any chance on any more icons?

det0ur1 karma

Yea we are open to more icons. Any suggestions?

DocHoss2 karma

Hey guys! Great app! I just transitioned over to iPhone a few weeks ago and have been using Narwhal since day 1. Didn't have many questions...just a couple quick feature requests.

First, I can't figure out how to undo hiding a thread. I've gotten in the habit of just hiding a lot of stuff after I read the headline and Upvote or downvote...and I've hidden some stuff I'd like to get back. How do? I've done it accidentally a time or two but can't seem to find anything telling me how I did it!

Second, I was using Reddit is Fun on Android and really like it's ability to save the subs you entered automatically in your sub list without subscribing. Any chance of that being an option? I like to visit lots of different subs and can't always remember them until two weeks later when I want to go back for that one random thing I found.

Even if you guys don't want to do these things, I'm still a very satisfied user! Keep up the good work!

det0ur5 karma

For a one off use case for accidental hides, you can shake your phone to unhide. For the other times, you can click your name in the menu to go to your profile, select the hidden section, and swipe right to unhide.

We could do something like that in the future. We would need to create a different section to keep it organized.

Ignorance_Is_Swiss1 karma

Is there anyway to implement a 'search comments' feature? I find this really useful on live threads or large threads to do a keyword search. I think Relay on android has this functionality. Love Narwhal btw!

det0ur1 karma

Yea, we'd like to do this in the future!


What's the dumbest request you have ever had?

det0ur2 karma

Hmmm thats a really hard question. We truly do appreciate all feedback we get and evaluate it within the larger big picture of narwhal.

Unhooked-1 karma

Is there a tutorial to figure out how to use the coolest features?

det0ur2 karma

We have an explanation page for all of our advanced settings and a small tutorial when you first open the app. The best place to get help and find out cool stuff is at /r/getnarwhal !

vanPlumley1 karma

Hey guys. Just downloaded it and wondered is there a way to swipe through post to post to post without having to go back to the subreddit first?

det0ur3 karma

Not currently, although we do support 3d touch for all posts. We may incorporate a faster viewing mode in the future!

hawkfalcon1 karma

Is Narwhal swift? Any plans to open source it? Thanks for the fantastic app!

det0ur3 karma

It isn't, because swift was very new when we first started on narwhal. We don't have any plans to open source currently.

Thanks for using narwhal :)

RosemaryCrafting1 karma

Have you ever used an other Reddit apps and thought "man, I hate to admit but I like this one more than narwhal" or something along those lines?

det0ur1 karma

I can honestly say that I haven't, because first and foremost we make narwhal for ourselves. I do think that there are many great reddit clients out there, but I will always like narwhal the most.

WindowsRX1 karma

Could you make the UI more like iOS's apps with navigation on the bottom, instead of the top?

det0ur12 karma

We could, but then we'd be the same as all the other apps. We like having our super customizable side menu that can take you anywhere in the app at any time!

SadisticAI1 karma

Hey guys, first off thanks for Narwhal. It's my most used app. I don't even use the desktop version because narwhal feels so native. Anyway, I do have one question. What is up with the ads lately? They constantly make my phone beep or they straight up crash the up from the pop ups. It's been going on for a few updates now. The popups have slowed tremendously but the beeping still happens and scares the hell out of me.

det0ur1 karma

We've been in a constant fight with our ad provider. A couple weeks ago was the last straw and we turned off the worst actor. We sincerely apologize and those annoying ads should be gone.

thekick8861 karma

Does narwhal support App Transport Security? Thanks for the awesome app!

det0ur2 karma

We do partially. We are working with our ad provider to make the full transition over. (Ad companies are slow on adopting tech stuff unfortunately)

pearthon0 karma

Why is it no longer available for IOS7? I have an iPhone 4 and can't upgrade to a recent enough IOS to download narwhal despite wanting to.

det0ur1 karma

We have been using new features of iOS, which unfortunately made us move our requirement up to iOS 9

pearthon1 karma

I'm using an older (functional but buggy) Alien Blue at the moment and love it and would love to try narwhal but can't yet. Out of curiosity, is it impossible to release two versions: one with fewer features for older OSs and the preferred newer? Or just too time consuming from a development perspective.

Thanks for answering by the way, I'm sure you guys are doing an amazing job!

det0ur2 karma

There is no way to release 2 versions on the app store really. It would be nice if apple could make available the previous versions that worked on those OS

ChaitanyaTNT0 karma

Any plans of coming to Android?

det0ur1 karma

If only there was more time in the day...

submittedanonymously0 karma

I really like your app and would continue to use it except for one major thing: the documents and data storage gets astronomical in such a short amount of time. I'm on a 6+ 16gb and using your app I would regularly get the "storage almost full" alert anytime I tried to download a 50mb podcast or take a photo. When I would check storage, Narwhal was the culprit ranging from 1-2gb every time after maybe a month of use. I would delete and reinstall it for a quick fix, but in no time at all its storage would build back up insanely fast. I checked around to see if there was an internal settings fix but couldn't find one. I finally had to switch to a different app, which is a shame because I absolutely love your interface and the transition from Alien Blue to you was super easy.

Since Apple is pretty much a dick in regard to being able to manage the "documents and data" sections of individual apps, I would simply request of you to see if there's a fix for this because I honestly would love to go back to it. Antenna is alright, but it's just not as good as Narwhal.

As for a real question, one of the things I loved about Alien Blue was the simple in-app reader for documents so I could actually read the reported piece without having to fully click into the article, only to be blocked by an ad trying to sell me a subscription. (Looking at you WaPo/Forbes) Is there any discussion among you that this type of feature could be implemented in Narwhal?


det0ur3 karma

You just need to hit the clear cache button int he preferences. That will remove almost all the storage.

In the future, we will look into automatically purging the cache, but it can always be done now with a quick button press.