What actually is a hashtag?

What actually is a hashtag?

Facebook has jumped on the hashtag bandwagon, following the success of Twitter and Instagram hashtags, but where did they actually come from?

The hashtag was invented as a label for groups and topics in IRC. IRC or Internet Relay Chat is a form of live internet text messaging mainly used for group communication in discussion forums. By adding the ‘#’ sign before a string of text, that string was easy to find in a search – in IRC allowing users to join particular channels using #channelname. But Twitter made the hashtag mainstream.

As Twitter was building momentum in 2007, Chris Messina – an open-source software champion at Google – tweeted what is believed to be the original proposal that Twitter users adopt hashtags:

“how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in
#barcamp [msg]?”

— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007

In October of the same year, Nate Ritter’s #sandiegofire hashtag during the California wildfires became one of the first news topics to go viral.

Ritter dedicated his Twitter posts to updating San Diego residents on any information regarding the wildfires – evacuations, meeting points, places to gather supplies, etc. A great way to pass on vital information.

Twitter took advantage of this useful tool its users had created and introduced hashtag links by July 2009. Clicking on a hashtag would take you to a stream of tweets around the same topic.

Soon after, trending topics were introduced, allowing users to see popular subjects. Subjects are now carefully filtered and local topics can also be viewed.

It’s no wonder Twitter is the go-to place to find out what’s going on.