Recently, Facebook announced that it would start introducing the use of hashtags little by little on the social network. You will be able to use them in your posts so they are visible to the public, and users can deeper explore the topics that interest them. But, do you know how to use hashtags? Do you know where they came from? Here we’re going to shed some light on the topic.

Hashtag featured

Even though many may not be aware, hashtags started years ago on the social network Twitter, where they were used extensively. Generally speaking, a hashtag is nothing more than a metadata marker that can be used by a web service, or simply viewed by the user. For example, people began to use it as a term for the different channels in IRC chat services.

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Even still, its true use and massive reach was undoubtedly due to its role in Twitter beginning in 2007, from which point you could filter tweets that contained a key phrase so you could stay up-to-date on a specific topic or trend. In fact, it was from hashtags that the concept of “trending topic” was born, which is a way that Twitter displays the most-used tweets on a worldwide, national, or local level.

It is made up of the pound symbol (#) followed by one or more linked keywords. #BarcelonaVsMadrid, #2012Elections, or #Windows8 were some examples of how it was used. There is also a set of unwritten rules, such as that you should use a capital letter on each word in the hashtag so you can tell them apart since there aren’t any spaces. Where it is placed doesn’t matter. You can mix it in with your message, or put it at the end if you don’t want to mention it explicitly in the message body itself.

Because of its popularity, Twitter finally developed a somewhat efficient filtering method for the unbridled whirlpool of information. Here is the first tweet that a hashtag was used in, sent by the Google engineer named Chris Messina.

Therefore, and given its very nature, the objective of using hashtags is to round up all the messages about the same topic to separate them from the rest, whether it be just for fun, or because you need to be following specific information as it comes in about a certain event. In fact, the first time hashtags were used on a massive scale was during the big California fire in 2007 in which 500,000 acres of forest was burned. Reporters and personnel scattered around the area broadcasted the rescue and evacuation efforts.

Since then, the rest was history.  People comment on international conflicts, sporting events, or television programs directly faster than the mainstream media does, possibly making it the fastest and most direct source that you can find today to quickly get up-to-date on almost any event.

With time, the use of hashtags has deteriorated in a way, becoming in many cases simply a comical resource for expressing one’s mood or subliminal thoughts, and isn’t very useful when it comes to filtering them for reading. Even still, its expansion and use cannot be stopped – today, in addition to Twitter, other networks such as Google Plus, and the previously mentioned initiative from Facebook, use them as an indispensable resource for reading the enormous amount of information that you’ll find onlin

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