The hashtag at 10 years young

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The hashtag was born on Twitter 10 years ago today, and it has become one of the most recognizable and widely used symbols of our time. Here’s how.

In the summer of 2007, a web marketing specialist and avid user of Twitter, Chris Messina walked into our grungy office at 164 South Park (yes, people would just walk in back then) and made a suggestion to me and a few other Twitter employees who were sitting nearby. We were working frantically to fix a tech issue that had brought Twitter down, as was often the case in those early days.

Many iconic features of Twitter have been created over the years by listening and watching what people who use Twitter do with it and then working to make it easier and better for them—we still do this today. Back in those early days, Jack and I even published our phone numbers on the front page. So, although we were somewhat frenzied, we wanted to give Chris a few minutes and hear him out.

His proposal was simple, useful, and fun—just like Twitter. Because brevity is essential on Twitter, he suggested using the “pound” or “hash” character common on phones (this was pre-iPhone) to create groups of related Tweets. It was an undeniably elegant proposal, but I really needed to get back to work. I turned back to my computer screen to help get Twitter back up and running, hurriedly ending the conversation with a sarcastic, “Sure, we’ll get right on that.”

Thankfully, Chris didn’t take offense to my reaction, he simply started doing what he had proposed. On August 23rd, 2007, the hashtag came into existence with this Tweet and eventually caught on across the platform. We hyperlinked hashtags on Twitter making them easier and better for all.

Since it first appeared on Twitter, the hashtag has dramatically evolved — from grouping Tweets, to adding quirky commentary, to sparking social movements and global conversations. Using hashtags on Twitter, people worldwide have made this platform their microphone, shaped culture, and changed the world.

Combined with the power and influence of Twitter, the hashtag empowers everyone to see what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about. It allows people from all over the planet to share their voice and join global conversations. When something happens in the world, it happens on Twitter.

Happy tenth birthday, hashtag. We’re glad we never called you by your technically correct name, “Octothorp.”


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