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An Oral History of the #Hashtag

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Whether you first knew # as a number sign, the pound symbol, or a tic-tac-toe board, its incarnation as the hashtag has changed language for millions around the world. Sure, it can indicate where you’re posting from (#OvalOffice) or what you’re posting about ­(#FakeNews). But it has also shaped elections, launched social movements, and transcended its meaning as a mere keystroke to become a defining symbol of the digital age. Its story started on a bare-bones social-networking site called Twitter back in 2007, when early adopters began developing tools to organize their tweets.

Chris Messina

Former Google and Uber developer lead, early hashtag proponent

Stowe Boyd

Former research head at Gigaom

Biz Stone

Twitter cofounder

Nate Ritter

Web developer

Heather Gautney

Sociologist

Chris Messina: Ten years ago we were at South by Southwest in Austin when Twitter was really blowing up. But there were a lot of people back in San Francisco frustrated that their Twitter feeds were full of stories from Austin that were not relevant to them. There was no way of organizing tweets so you knew what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

Stowe Boyd: Chris suggested in a blog post that we start using tags in Twitter, and he proposed calling them channels. His orientation to that word came from his exposure to IRC chat rooms, right? Internet Relay Chat.

Messina: I’d been an active user on IRC for a while, and they had this concept of channels, which you named with the pound symbol and a word. So one day, in August 2007, I went to Twitter’s headquarters in South Park, in San Francisco. I didn’t really know anybody, but I walked up to Biz Stone and was like, “Hey, we’ve been talking about this problem with groups on Twitter. What do you think about using pound symbols to tag posts?”

Biz Stone: I don’t think he was proposing an actual system by which we would search or display the tags. He was just saying people should use tags. I said, “OK, but what do you want me to do about that? Go ahead and do it.”
Boyd: We started using them with our friends, but I never liked the name channels. My background was in computer science. The hash mark is one of the operators in C, and everybody I knew referred to it as the hash, right? Not pound. So the name came from programmer culture.

Messina: It took a few months to get going. I believe it was October before the hashtag had its first breakout success.

Nate Ritter: My wife and I were traveling around San Diego and saw smoke. We turned on the TV to try to get information about the fire so we could let other people know about it. The speed at which things were coming out was much too fast for me to blog about it, so I started posting about it on Twitter.

Messina: I reached out to him and proposed using

Read More At:  https://www.wired.com/2017/05/oral-history-hashtag/


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