The history of the hashtag
The hashtag and Social Media have become the equivalent of two peas in a pod. We can remember the days when you never really used the hashtag. Back in the day when the hashtag was just starting to make waves, we’d have to have a post-it on our screen to remind us that the hashtag hid behind the 3 on our keyboard (Apple, surely this needs to change?) - we’re showing our age now! What was the hashtag's purpose before this social domination and how did it evolve? It’s been keeping us up at night just wondering about the hashtag - it came out of nowhere or did it? If not just for a good night's sleep, we set upon some research, and here’s what we found on the history of the hashtag…
What does the # mean?
Originally the # was called the pound or number sign, before the hashtag reigned supreme. The pound sign (hashtag) was a simple abbreviation for weight, specifically pounds. To clarify whether it's representing a number or weight, depends on where the hashtag is placed. Before the number, it’s a number, and after it’s a weight, for example #3 books (this shows 3 books) 8# baby (this shows a baby that weights 8 lbs).
Other uses for the hashtag?
Remember when you used to have to key numbers into a phone (yep we’re old), you’d often have to press the pound (hashtag) key to show you had finished punching in numbers or there was a break between the numbers.
Who used the hashtag on social media first?
Chris Messina gets this accolade. In the summer of 2007, he used #barcamp as the first recorded hashtag on Twitter. His idea was that this would let conversations gather around this group. Rumour has it that Evan Williams (founder of Twitter) didn’t think this would work as the hashtag was quite a techie symbol - eat your hat Evan!
Where did the idea come from?
Ok, so going from a weight or number abbreviator to a way of grouping conversations may seem like a bit of a leap. However, the hashtag had been used in chat for years, in fact in 1988 Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was using it to group conversations and as a community they were growing fast. This is where Chris got the idea from and why Evan thought it might be too techie. IRC died away as the other more user friendly social platforms dominated.
It looks like the hashtag’s popularity shows no signs of letting up. We like a hashtag, as does the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). As you know, we’re big fans of the OED and they didn't let us down with the word hashtag, adding it to the dictionary in 2014. The hashtag is here to stay, and coming up soon we’ll be sharing our top tips on how to get the most out of your hashtags and, perhaps more importantly, let you know what you shouldn’t be doing with your social marketing.