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Square no more: Instagram allowing landscape and vertical crops now

Square no more: Instagram allowing landscape and vertical crops now
Instagram will look a bit different starting Thursday as no longer will every photo and video have to fit into a square. (Instagram)

Instagram is doing away with a requirement that photos and videos uploaded to the app be cropped into squares, a move that appeases frustrated users but removes some of the simplicity that made it special.

Starting Thursday, Instagram is giving users the option to display their photos in landscape and portrait orientations, too. That'll be a big change for the hugely popular image-sharing app. Instagram, bought by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, claims 300 million users and about 70 million photo uploads a day on average.

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When co-founder Kevin Systrom started designing Instagram more than five years ago, older-style, square-shooting cameras such as Polaroids and the Holga he used as a college student inspired him.

Squares looked nice on the smaller-screened smartphones of the day. Requiring everyone to use square crops allowed the app to stand out from competitors and created a consistency that added to its clean aesthetic. It also was one less detail people had to consider during editing, making uploading a snappier process.

But now displays are bigger, video is more prevalent and Instagram users, including advertisers, are getting more creative with their posts. Square had become too rigid a constraint as apps such as Snapchat turned vertical orientation into a default for millions of teenagers and young adults.

Instagram said as much in a prepared statement Thursday: "It turns out that nearly one in five photos or videos people post aren't in the square format, and we know that it hasn't been easy to share this type of content on Instagram: friends get cut out of group shots, the subject of your video feels cramped and you can't capture the Golden Gate Bridge from end to end."

So it's adjusting to support more orientations, just as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have in recent months.

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