One of the defining features of Instagram—aside from filters that can turn mediocre images into glamour shots—is its stolidly square photos. But almost five years after launching its app, the company announced today that it will support photos and videos shot in rectangular landscape and portrait orientations.
“Square format has been and always will be part of who we are,” the Facebook subsidiary said in a blog post today. “That said, the visual story you’re trying to tell should always come first, and we want to make it simple and fun for you to share moments just the way you want to.”
Almost one in five of the photos or videos posted on Instagram didn’t start out as squares, Instagram said, and cropping can be a painful process: “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.”
Instagram could have made this change at any point. The square format was an artificial constraint it imposed, just like Twitter’s 140-character limit or Vine’s six-second clips. But it’s possible the move was driven by advertising. The change will give videos a more cinematic feel, freeing brands from having to create custom videos specifically for Instagram, when they already have marketing assets lying around.