Who owns the hashtag? The Internet has been furiously debating this question since Twitter’s Super Bowl end zone dance in which Twitter was, according to Venture Beat, mentioned in 50% of all Super Bowl ads (more than any other social network). It seems as though many of the ads only mentioned hashtags, the # symbol we use for tracking Tweets on any given subject, and this has peeved other some social media providers.
The short answer is, nobody owns the hashtag. The much-loved pound symbol, once the sole possession of geeky programmers and voicemail navigation systems, has come into its own and won’t be controlled by any one source.
The hashtag is so popular, one family even reportedly gave it to their daughter as a name back in November.
A recent article by Russell Brandom on The Verge discusses the hashtag debate, stating, “Twitter’s the first place we look when we want to check in on a hashtag. But that may not always be true. Other services have already staked out specific hashtags like #nofilter on Instagram or #gif on Tumblr. Five years from now, we might look to Tumblr or Instagram or Vine for the most lively Doritos-themed conversations, or some service that hasn’t even launched yet. As more services adopt the hashtag shorthand, it gets harder and harder for Twitter to keep its stranglehold on this semantic goldmine.” Makes total sense to us!
So why is Twitter so heavily associated with the hashtag, even when other social media sites use it? It may be because the hashtag’s first known use in social media was at SXSW, when open source advocate, Chris Messina, used the # sign to help talk about the festival on Twitter with an easily searchable #sxsw thread.
Brandom’s article explains, “According to Messina, the point was always for hashtags to survive across platforms. He also uses them on Flickr, in Google Docs, and in email subject lines, as a kind of visible metadata. As long as a service gives you a text box, it’s giving you a way to catalog your content. And by making your tags visible, it makes them more likely to survive the whirlwind of retweets and screencaps that often comes with Internet conversation.”
Pretty cool, right? What other online symbols are too wild to be tamed by any one service? We can’t think of any @ the moment.
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