It’s time for a Friday etymology lesson. (Not to be confused with an entomology lesson.) Topic of discuss: the hashtag. Also known as #.
The real name for this symbol is octothorpe. Rumor has it, it was coined by Bell telephone engineers who needed to name that other symbol on the telephone keypad. Since “octothorpe” sounds too much like an athletic octopus, people began referring to it as a “hash” sign. Probably because the slanted bars resemble the hash marks that designate rank on military uniforms.
Here in the US, we commonly referred to that symbol as a “pound” sign – which could get you into trouble in the UK, since a pound is something altogether different.
Then, once the phone became obsolete, Twitter came along and co-opted the symbol for their own purposes. They added the word “tag” and turned it into shorthand for a communal understanding.
On Twitter, hashtags help convey a lot of information in a small space but do we really need them on Facebook?
The Wall Street Journal says Facebook is testing out the idea of adding hashtags to posts so people can use them to search for related information. What’s in it for Facebook? The more people stick around and click around, the more ads they’ll see.
But here’s what bothers me:
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was building the foundation to be the best “personalized newspaper” for users, an ambition Twitter has also expressed by working closely with publishers and improving its news-surfacing engine. Facebook, which also recently revamped its search engine, has also said it plans to make public posts searchable in the future.
Facebook is not a newspaper. It’s a glorified chat room. I check Twitter to see if anyone else felt that earthquake. I’d never check Facebook for that information.
Part of the problem is that Facebook has never been very searchable and their new graph search hasn’t helped. I find it awkward to use and I’d be happy to be rid of it. Second, is the speed. Twitter is fast and now. People post instantly when something happens. I don’t see that on Facebook. Maybe I’m hanging with the wrong crowd.
Facebook is for browsing. Picture here, funny saying there, posts about what my relatives are doing and which game level my friend just achieved. I don’t need hashtags for that.
What do you think? Would hashtags improve the user experience on Facebook or is it just more unnecessary clutter?