Imgur is ready to take mobile seriously. The popular image sharing site is launching a new iPhone app on Thursday that reimagines the experience of browsing through its massive collection of photos, GIFs, and other images. This isn't the first time that Imgur has tried to launch a mobile app, but Imgur thinks that this is the first time it got it right.
"The app is beautiful," Alan Schaaf, Imgur founder and CEO, tells The Verge. "It's just absolutely beautiful and the best browsing experience for Imgur period, that exists."
"We started on the thing we thought was absolutely most critical, and that was the browsing experience."
The new app isn't much like Imgur's website. Instead of seeing a grid of tiny images that you might want to click on, you're presented with what's essentially an endless row of cards, each with a picture and a title on them. You swipe side to side to see more pictures, and if you're interested in one, you can tap in to view and make comments, like or dislike an image, or favorite something for later. It's a really easy way to start browsing what can otherwise be an intimidatingly large collection of images with no obvious entry point.
The app defaults to sorting images by what's currently "most viral" on the site, which should make it easier to find something entertaining. For more dedicated users, the app also offers a section of random images and a feed of new submissions, which tends to include an inordinate number of Alison Brie photos.
Notably, the app is still missing some major features, including the ability to upload new photos. Schaaf says that'll be among the first things added now that this is out the door. "We started small," he says. "We started on the thing we thought was absolutely most critical, and that was the browsing experience." Browsing through specific image sections is also high on the to-do list.
Imgur says the new app will come to Android soon
In conversation, Schaaf sounds truly excited about the app's launch. He's also blunt about why Imgur's prior effort at an iPhone app didn't work. That app wasn't native to the platform, he says, and "at the end of the day, it was sacrificing the user experience, and that's one thing that we learned to never sacrifice." Imgur launched its original iPhone app in the summer of 2013 but ended up pulling it less than a year later. Its Android app, which launched around the same time, is still available, but Imgur plans to bring this new app to Android soon. Imgur will also continue to support third-party apps.
Imgur's intention appears to be continuing to build its community through mobile. The site initially exploded on the web thanks to its relationship to Reddit and later because of its own community features. It's now setting itself up to start recreating that on mobile. If it can do it, expect Imgur to get even bigger.
"We really wanted to give people a way to explore the amazing stories that people are exploring on Imgur," Schaaf says. "...The first step in doing all of that, we thought, was to browse and explore that content. Pretty soon after we're going to let people create that content as well."