Hashtags gunning for #globaldomination

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If rumors are true, your Facebook friends’ errant hashtags—likely imported from Twitter—will soon stop annoying you and actually have some meaning.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Facebook plans to add hashtag capability to its posts, though the Journal’s unnamed sources didn’t know when the social network plans to roll out the feature.

“We do not comment on rumors and speculation,” a Facebook representative told TechHive.

Hashtags don’t do much of anything in Facebook right now, but that could be about to change.

Facebook adopting the use of hashtags isn’t far-fetched; the company bought the photo-sharing network Instagram almost a year ago. Instagram users also turn to hashtags to find photos and build communities around specific categories (such as #nofilter or #throwbackthursday).

Twitter didn’t invent hashtags, but the popular shorthand preceded by a # symbol has become ubiquitous since developer Chris Messina proposed using the symbol to find people talking about specific tech events. That was five years ago. Today the hashtag is everywhere—tucked in the lower righthand corner of the screen as you watch your favorite TV show, flashed during trailers for upcoming movies, even inserted in Facebook status updates where they have no meaning.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn’t use hashtags to index conversations about specific events or topics. Sure, you can use hashtags all the live long day on Facebook, but they don’t redirect to a larger stream of information or have any relevance on search results. But that may soon change.

What are they good for? #absolutelynothing #justkidding #somanyuses

On Twitter, you can use hashtags to quickly find what people are talking about.

Hashtags are a way to sift through information and discover what people are talking about. This is handy enough for regular use, but it’s especially useful for companies, musicians, journalists, or anyone else on Twitter who wants to keep track of public perception in a simple, fast way.

It’s unclear at this point how hashtags would work on Facebook. Would they function the same way they do on Twitter, as a way to filter search results, or would they serve some other purpose altogether?

Of course, not everyone on Twitter uses hashtags the same way. Some users have perfected the hashtag joke, using the # sign as way to add layers of humor to their tweets.

In a 2010 New Yorker essay, author Susan Orlean detailed the use of hashtags as commentary, disclaimers, or sneaky, backhanded jokes, which “totally subverts the original purpose of the hashtag” because most of the time, no one is searching for an overly wrought, 100-character phrase.

Facebook could use hashtags as part of its just-announced Graph Search, which currently relies on personal information you provide and pages you like as part of its filtering process. Hashtags would add another parameter to search by, on top of queries like “friends of friends who live in San Francisco” or “music liked by people who like Apple.”

But using hashtags to find information on Facebook, where users have varying levels of privacy settings in place, wouldn’t be as comprehensive as it is on Twitter, where only about 12 percent of users have a protected account.

This story, "Hashtags gunning for #globaldomination" was originally published by TechHive.

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