The Hashtag is 10!
What the hashtag means to me 10 years after its invention
It may surprise you to learn that Twitter didn’t invent the hashtag. Indeed, the hashtag has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine that there was a time before the hashtag. But indeed there was, and it was over ten years ago today.
On August 23, 2007 at 12:25PM PST, I tweeted a simple idea that would change how we use social media and communicate, possibly forever:
Two days later, I published a lengthy proposal clarifying my intention, with suggestions for how Twitter might adopt the idea, even though I never worked for Twitter. Instead, I was an early user and a fan, and a believer in the power of the internet coupled with free/libre technologies to bring people together. As it happened, Twitter didn’t really officially recognize the hashtag until July 15, 2011.
To learn more about the origin story of the hashtag, this interview that I gave to CNBC four years ago is a good primer.
Celebrating the 10th hashtagivarsary!
Here are 10 descriptions of what the hashtag means to me:
Free (as in freedom)
The hashtag is my gift to the internet community. I specifically didn’t want anyone to own the idea or be able to prevent others from using it — least of all any particular social media platform.
The hashtag is meant to be an open source, libre technology, like Firefox or WordPress (albeit, much less work went into it!).
Anyone can use a hashtag. It doesn’t take any special training, and you don’t need advanced technical skills. All you need is something to say, share, or show.
If there’s a conversational happening around a hashtag and you want to contribute, you can do so. You don’t need permission. Jump in.
If there’s a topic that you want to discuss, choose a hashtag that makes sense to you and get the conversation started. The only way to guarantee that it won’t take off is to never start. Share early and often, and do so with intention.
Although hashtags can be used for private use (I use them in my email subjects as well as to tag documents in the excellent Bear app), they offer their most value when used in social contexts. The original application of the hashtag was to make it easier for people attending events to share media, observations, and ideas with other attendees; this use case now extends to all manner of social and interest groups, and works regardless of the platform or media types being generated.
The act of participating in the flow of a hashtag commons is a political act and contributes attention currency to something that is important or meaningful to you.
Put another way: using a hashtag signifies a desire to join, connect, or speak your mind or your share perspective or experience. It says, “I exist, I am here, and I choose to express myself!”
As the pace of media creation and distribution accelerate, organically trending hashtags represent a gestalt lens on the collective psyche. The tags that trend or appear popular in search results drive participation, awareness, and as a consequence, shape the contents of millions of people’s thoughts.
Whenever you’ve seen or overheard a hashtag and decided to investigate further, your thoughts have been invaded by a meme — also known as a thought virus!
Due to the open nature of social media platforms, you can employ hashtags for common (#love), unconventional (#fromwhereIstand), utilitarian (#follow4follow), categorical (#16x9fordays), and emergent (#BlackLivesMatter) applications. You can speak them, or you can put them on billboards or TV shows or in movie trailers. Nothing about the format of the hashtag can or should deny unanticipated use cases. And that’s the point!
A hashtag is not a place and is not property (despite some ill-advised attempts to introduce controls on participation and use of certain tags). The lifespan of a hashtag lasts only as long as people animate it with their attention and contributions. Hashtags that no longer inspire participation gradually fade from the collective consciousness. This is a good and natural thing.
Even if hashtags can foment revolutions and galvanize popular uprisings, they need not only be used for serious communication. In fact, some of the best hashtags are fun (#icebucketchallenge), funny (#CareerEndingTwitterTypos, etc), or banal (#mlia). It’s true: the hashtag works hard, but it plays hard too!
I created the hashtag while I was working for myself, and not a big company. I wanted to give back to the internet community — in some small way—to repay all those who came before me and had contributed their time, effort, and love.
To me, it’s critical to point out that the success of the hashtag is anomalous in Silicon Valley. Its creation was not motivated by profit, but by a desire to make the web a better and more interesting place for everyone. Nor was the hashtag singularly my invention—numerous people contributed to it, including Stowe Boyd offering the term “hash tag” and Nate Ritter helping to demonstrate their use in disaster response.
So remember too that the success of the hashtag represents a different model for contributing to the world. Not everything worthy of pursuit must be driven by economic or capitalistic outcomes.
So now that I’ve shared my list, it’s your turn. Tweet what the hashtag means to you — or how it’s made a difference in your life (on Twitter, Instagram, or elsewhere). I look forward to seeing what y’all have to say!
The hashtag was born on Twitter 10 years ago today, and it has become one of the most recognizable and widely used…blog.twitter.com
El hashtag nació en Twitter el 23 de agosto de 2007. Chris Messina fue el primer usuario que tuiteó una sugerencia para…blog.twitter.com
New York Times
On Aug. 23, 2007 - 10 years ago today - he sent a tweet asking Twitter users what they thought about adding a pound…www.nytimes.com
Before Twitter came along, no-one really knew what the point of the hash key was on the keyboard (except for maybe…www.bbc.co.uk
The hashtag character (#) popularized on Twitter was tweeted for the first time by designer Chris Messina on this day…money.cnn.com
Ten years ago today, the Twitter hashtag was born with a very simple tweet. how do you feel about using # (pound) for…www.recode.net
Today is the 10th anniversary for Twitter's hashtag, the number, pound or hash sign associated with everything online…www.adweek.com
The Next Web
The Twitter logo at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. (Photo: Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images) The best way…www.usatoday.com
The hashtag is 10! Yes, the symbol that started out as the lowly "number sign" or "pound" on the telephone keypad and…www.npr.org
Ten years ago today, an entrepreneur named Chris Messina tweeted "#barcamp" - and the Twitter hashtag was born. Since…www.businessinsider.com
Open the Internet Browser Click Tools (or "gear" icon at top right hand corner) > Internet Options > Privacy > Advanced…www.theaustralian.com.au
Als die Raute Twitter eroberte Ob #JeSuisCharlie, #RefugeesWelcome oder #FreeDeniz: Weltbewegende Ereignisse werden…www.morgenpost.de
One of the defining things about Twitter has always been the degree to which its own users have shaped the service. And…www.fastcompany.com
Yes, it's really been 10 years. Twitter's most iconic feature is celebrating a big birthday today. Exactly 10 years ago…mashable.com
Messina tweeted the hashtag as a recommendation for Twitter to create groups by automatically adding hyperlink metadata…www.axios.com
It's been exactly 10 years since a hashtag was used on Twitter for the first time.www.abc.net.au
A smile crept across Chris Messina's face this weekend when, at a festival, someone casually used the phrase "hashtag…www.euronews.com
The Irish Times
The venerable hashtag on Twitter is celebrating its 10th birthday. It seems strange to think something so foundational…www.irishtimes.com
On August 23, 2007, a tweeted question helped change the history of the internet with its inclusion of a now ubiquitous…gntech.ae
The Mercury News
It used to be called the pound sign, perhaps the number sign. Word nerds knew it as as the octothorpe. But today, 10…www.mercurynews.com
Twitter is marking 10 years since the hashtag was first used on the social media site by celebrating some of the most…metro.co.uk
Sur Twitter à côté de son pseudonyme, Chris Messina affiche toujours fièrement un petit dièse. Un détail qui ne doit…lexpansion.lexpress.fr
Folks around the world are celebrating 10 years of the Twitter hashtag. TYou may not know this, but Twitter didn't come…newsroom.cisco.com
Le 23 août 2007, un utilisateur du réseau social remettait au goût du jour un symbole presque oublié Si les hashtags…www.rtbf.be
Pour les digital natives, ces aliments de la vie quotidienne sont tellement intégrés à leur vie que 10 ans semblent une…www.lesechos.fr
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? - ?ChrisMessina (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007…brand24.com
Oznaka hashtag na društvenim mrežama danas je zvanično napunila deset godina. Prvi hashtag objavljen je 23. avgusta…avaz.ba
I was an investor and board member in Twitter at the time and the Company was tiny, not more than twenty employees and…avc.com
The hashtag at 10 and my interview with Chris Messina a few years back.hackernoon.com
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the use of hashtags to organize thoughts, people, and news across social media…www.businessesgrow.com
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