The first appearance of hashtags on the Internet was in Internet Relay Chat. Created in 1988 IRC is a network where users communicate to one another through channels, signified by the pound sign. #London would be a channel of people talking about London, #singles with single people, and so on and so forth. With the IRC community growing to almost half a million users, they needed a name for the titles of these channels and they settled on the 'hashtag' or less catchy 'hashie'.
Chris Messina, a social technology expert and long-time user of the IRC, suggested to Twitter that they adapt the hashtag practice to gather, categorize, and index discussions by the use of keywords preceded by the now infamous symbol. Evan Williams, founder of Twitter, told Messina that he didn’t think hashtags would catch on because of their technical approach. Turns out he was wrong and it was this short-sightedness amongst other issues that saw him leave the company in 2011.
The hashtag began to pick up popularity through 2008 and 2009, slowly being adopted by Twitter users around the world. President Barrack Obama used the hashtag #askobama during his successful 2008 campaign, as well as in 2009 during the Iranian protests. With the hashtag clearly picking up steam, Twitter finally reacted, and in 2009, began to hyperlink hashtags from Tweets to search results for the hashtag text. Once Twitter users were able to search for specific hashtags, their use skyrocketed.
As the popularity of Twitter took off over the last three years, other social networking sites have implemented hashtags as well. Youtube, Tumblr, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Flickr and Instagram have all added hashtagging abilities to their sites, with similar success. The all mighty Facebook is the latest social network to introduce hashtags to status updates, pictures, and videos. With all of these options, businesses and marketers have had a field day crafting up creative hashtags for their product or company.
Ten years on, the # symbol is used 125 million times on Twitter alone each day. Do you have any favorite hashtags you use? Or do you really hate it when people #use #hashtags #like #this and want to talk about it?