Home » #creativity » How did the idea for hashtags originate on Twitter?

How did the idea for hashtags originate on Twitter?



Chris Messina is the creator of the hashtag. With his own words he says:

“Essentially there was a widespread desire in the early Twitter community to provide some means for groups to organize themselves. Many looked to the model of Flickr and other standard web-based group systems as inspiration. It occurred to me, however, that a significant amount of Twitter usage occurred over SMS or other low-bandwidth channels, making group management tedious, if not impossible. Discovery of groups while on the go was another problem.

Thus, the simplest solution was to embed the group token in the tweet itself and use functionality like ‘track’ to follow the topic (Twitter removed the track feature long ago, but trending topics injected new life and relevance into hashtags).

Thus any user could create a new group simply by tweeting with a word — however, there needed to be a way to separate the “meta from the meat”. I chose the hash symbol because it was a convention already established in IRC channels and on Jaiku. Any user could then “join” a group conversation simply by appending a given hashtag to their tweets.

If spammers ended up taking over a hashtag due to popularity, the ease with which hashtags are created enabled non-spammers to abandon the hashtag and move on quickly. Indeed, the very ephemerality of hashtags is what makes them easy and compelling to use in a fast-moving communication medium like Twitter.

FWIW, I never imagined that hashtags would catch on as they did — especially since Ev specifically told me that Twitter would instead use machine learning to group tweets and that hashtags were too “nerdy” to ever go mainstream.”



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