Instagram is responding to video focus backlash by testing portrait orientation photos in feeds

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The whole Instagram debacle of the last few weeks, with its focus on video content and the whole full-screen redesign – which now seems to have stopped – has caused him a lot of heartache. User backlash has been quite vocal. After all, Instagram’s success grew out of the fact that it was a photo-sharing app, and despite competition from apps like TikTok, Instagram users still seem to want that.

However, it looks like Instagram has actually taken the reaction into account and is currently testing photos with larger aspect ratios so the photos in your streams can take up as much screen real estate as Instagram Reels currently. Whether that’s enough to reassure users remains to be seen, but we’ve only been asking Instagram for the ability to post portrait mode images for about a decade, so maybe.

Portrait photos have always been a topic on Instagram. While it originally started off based on the somewhat unusual (at the time) square format, it eventually broke out of that to offer a slightly rectangular 4×5 format that gave portraits a little more room. And while for landscape images, these photos saw the full width of the app, in the more standard 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratios, the portrait orientation was squashed to fit with blank bars on each side.

However, it looks like that might be about to change with the new tests. The Verge reports that Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri confirmed in a recent “Ask me Anything” that they are testing vertical photos up to 9:16.

You can have great videos, but you can’t have great photos on Instagram. So we thought maybe we should make sure we treat them both equally.

– Adam Mosseri

However, it looks like Instagram anticipated this backlash before even showing off the full-screen redesign. Motion graphics artist and photographer Thomas Fitzgerald is apparently among the lucky ones who got a very early try of the feature back in May, and has written his own take on it on his blog. While the vertical photos and Instagram that are finally giving people what they’ve been wanting for nearly a decade sound wonderful, Thomas’ blog doesn’t make inspiring reading. Just like Instagram Reels, photos are also obscured by much of the UI overlaid on top. And it can’t be hidden, so you still don’t see the full picture. He describes it as “the worst of both worlds”.

Whether or not it will break into the wider Instagramming audience is currently unknown. After all, it’s one of those mysterious “tests” that Instagram often runs on a subset of its users. Sometimes these tests never make it into the app for everyone, but sometimes they do. And even if it does, there’s no telling when it will reach the rest of us, or in what form.

No matter what Instagram does — or any social media platform — it’s always going to piss someone off. But I can see this upsetting almost everyone who blew up their platform in the first place. At least those who haven’t given up yet.

[via The Verge]

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