To some, its use perfectly encapsulates the abject lack of imagination required to use social media: include it before a word or phrase to become “part of the conversation”. But now, in yet another sign that hashtags are the mass communication method of the future, Twitter's social networking rival Facebook has announced it is going to use them.
Mark Zuckerberg's social network said there had been “no simple way” to “see the larger view of what's happening and what people are talking about”. It said that hashtags, which have often been used on Facebook without working, would now “be clickable”, allowing users to indicate that their posts were part of the “larger discussion”.
In its statement announcing the new feature, Facebook mentioned Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest's use of hashtags, but the move was widely seen as an effort to steal Twitter's thunder.
The site popularised the method of tagging content, but it was not the inventor of their popular use. That honour falls to Chris Messina, now a user experience designer on Google Plus, who in 2007 wanted to create a place to group different tweets and proposed using the symbol. “Guess I got my answer about who's next to adopt hashtags! Welcome to the #club @facebook!” he tweeted.
The announcement led to surreal scenes played on Twitter where #hashtag is trending.
Facebook's Greg Lindley said: “We'll continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, that help people discover more of the world's conversations.”