How Bad Would It Really Be If Instagram Switched Up Its Grid?

Is the end of Instagram nigh? The simple answer is no: The app that spawned a generation of social media influencers and changed how we take, share, and edit photos isn't going anywhere. But given recent user reactions on Twitter, you'd think we were entering a Hefe-hued apocalypse.
The horrified backlash is all due to word of a recent in-app test, which switched some users' grids to a four-across photo format, rather than the standard three-across structure. For those who have planned their grids according to a specific aesthetic, aligning quotes in one column or colour-coordinating rows, the test is cause for concern. Those who aren't so interested in grid aesthetic meanwhile, have either taken to mercilessly laughing at those who are, or showing their solidarity for fellow Instagrammers.
However, before you start petitioning the app, there are a few important things to remember that will, we hope, ease your mind.
First off, there are benefits to looking at a four-across grid. Andrew Shini, the creator of the popular grid-planning app Preview told Refinery29 that his team has received many questions from users about the test. So many, in fact, that it prompted Preview to publish a blog post about the pros and cons of a potential four-across grid as well as mock-ups of new grid designs fitting this updated standard. Although the post acknowledges that photos will appear smaller, it also points out that it will enable users to see more thumbnails at once. You'll be able to get more information about an account with less scrolling.
Plus, the format would better suit many phones. "When Instagram did the original grid, the biggest consideration was probably the size of most phones," Evan Asano, CEO and founder of influencer marketing agency MediaKix, told Refinery29.
The year Instagram was founded, 2010, was the same year Apple released the iPhone 4, which had a 3.5-inch screen. Now, top-of-the-line phones have edge-to-edge displays, which translate to more screen space: iPhone X has a 5.8-inch screen and the Galaxy Note8 has a massive 6.3-inch screen. It makes sense that Instagram would consider switching up its format to correspond with these larger displays.
While Instagram hasn't confirmed if it would roll out any tools to appease grid planners, there is one already available feature that could be useful: the archive tool, which became available this past spring.
"If the [four-across grid] does happen, we recommend going through your grid and archiving posts that don't flow cohesively," says Brandy Pham, creative director of influencer-favourite grid planning app Planoly. "We don't recommend deleting just in case it's not a permanent change."
The other, easier option, Pham told Refinery29, is to simply leave your existing grid as is, and start posting creatively in line with the new format. No point crying over a misaligned grid.
Of course, it's worth remembering that just because Instagram is testing the four-across grid, this doesn't mean it's a sure deal. The app regularly tests tools that may or may not roll out to the masses. Right now, it appears like there are also ongoing tests for a "follows you" tag, which shows up in user bios and makes it easier to see when someone is following you. There's also the more annoying Story reminders tool, which I've seen intermittently when scrolling through my feed, notifying me of the Stories which will be expiring soon.
That's the nature of apps — they are almost always being updated — some changes you will probably love and some you may hate. But with 700 million monthly active users and the ever-increasing popularity of Instagram Stories, it's unlikely many people, if any, will abandon Instagram for good — even with the introduction of a four-across grid or other unwanted features. Who knows? You may end up liking them.
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