The history of the # (hash) symbol

HashtagWhen Twitter was launched in 2006 it was very basic in comparison to what it is today. Its first users were asked to simply share updates with their friends and colleagues in response to a simple question: ‘What are you doing?’ (Burgess, 2015). The platform had no extended functionalities as we know them today and these were only developed over the years mostly via user-led innovations, and only later were integrated into the architecture of the system (Bruns and Burgess, 2015:16).

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SanDiego Fires

#sandiegofire – the first successful example of hashtag in news context

#sandiegofire - the first successful example of hashtag in news context
#sandiegofire – the first successful example of hashtag in news context

The # symbol was first used on Twitter by San Francisco based Technologist and Twitter user Chris Messina (@chrismessina) on 23rd August 2007 in a short post which read: ‘how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? Immediately after that not much happened with hashtags. All they were doing for the next two months was ‘waiting’ for the right disaster to appear, so that they could show their potential to the world. Then it came on 20 October 2007 when sudden bushfires started in the San Diego region of California. That event helped to introduce hashtags to a wider audience and proved that disaster is their foundation stone.

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What is a hashtag?

The definition of a hashtag

Hashtag is a relatively new word. It was first used in 2007 as a simple user based innovation (#barcamp) useful for the organisation of content on Twitter. Since then it has enjoyed a rapid spread (#sandiegofire) on Twitter, across other social media and far beyond. In 2010 ‘Trending topics’ were introduced on Twitter based on the most popular hashtags. In 2012 ‘Hashtag’ was selected as the Word of the Year by The American Dialect Society.

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