Hashtags

Chris Messina

Short messages on services such as Twitter or identi.ca may be tagged by including one or more hashtags: words or phrases prefixed with the symbol ‘#,’ with multiple words concatenated, such as those in: ‘#Wikipedia is my favorite kind of #encyclopedia.’ Then, a person can search for the string ‘#Wikipedia’ and this tagged word will appear in the search engine results. These hashtags also show up in a number of trending topics websites, including Twitter’s own front page. Such tags are case-insensitive. Hashtags were invented on Twitter by Chris Messina. One phenomenon specific to the Twitter ecosystem are micro-memes, which are emergent topics for which a hashtag is created, used widely for a few days, then disappears. Other sites, such as Hashable, have adopted the hashtag to use for other reasons.

The feature has been added to other, non-short-message-oriented services, such as the user comment systems on YouTube and Gawker Media; in the case of the latter, hashtags for blog comments and directly-submitted comments are used to maintain a more constant rate of user activity even when paid employees are not logged into the website. Real-time search aggregators such as Google Real-Time Search also support hashtags in syndicated posts, meaning that hashtags inserted into Twitter posts can be hyperlinked to incoming posts falling under that same hashtag; this has further enabled a view of the ‘river’ of Twitter posts which can result from search terms or hashtags.

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