A hashtag is a metadata marker commonly used on the Internet where it allows to mark content with a more or less shared keyword. Composed of the typo sign “#” (hash), followed by one or more words attached (tag), it is particularly used on social networks.
As a result of its growth and worldwide use since the late 2000s, the word hashtag has now been incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary.
The use of the hash is old: it was already present on the punched cards where it was used to mean “number”. It often has, like the key # of the keyboard phones, been associated with this particular treatment. The assembler language of the PDP-11 thus gave the hashtag the meaning of immediacy when it was attached to a symbol. In 1978, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie defined in C language the keywords starting with # to give them priority processing (preprocessor keywords).
The IRC protocol specifies that the names of the discussion channels must start with an ampersand (rare in practice) or a hash depending on the configuration of the server. In the IRC culture, discussion channels are usually thematic.
Chris Messina, in 2007, proposes to use a similar system on Twitte. However, Internet users already used the hashtag without claiming the idea. This system was then taken up on social networks, where the hashtags identify topics.
According to the linguist Ben Zimmer, president of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee, the first use of the term “hashtag” was in a blog article by Stowe Boyd.
The international use of hashtag develops during the post-election uprising in Iran in 2009, where Internet users were able to learn about the subject in real time.
On social networks, hashtag is used to centralize messages around a specific term. It serves as a keyword for users to comment or follow a conversation. It is created by the association of the hash “#” and a word or a group of words, without space, for example: “#video; #VideoEditors”. Hashtags can be created by anyone and are often used for occasional events. They allow to connect several users around a theme, even if they do not know each other, according to the spirit of the IRC practice.
If we want to share the sentence in a search bar: “MultiMedia is a company”, it is better to put the hashtags in front of “MultiMedia ” and “company” because these are the keywords of the conversation:
“#MultiMedia is an #company”
Implementations in social networks
As of 2009, Twitter began to automatically interpret hashtags in hypertext links leading to a results page of its search engine listing all the tweets containing the hashtag. Facebook set up a similar feature in 2013. Other social networks followed, such as Google + or Instagram.
On Twitter, it sometimes happens that the hashtag serves as game or mockery, especially after some statements of politicians.
Hashtags can be used with accents. This is based on the fact that in the Spanish language, as well as in the French language, accents are essential for communication since they change the meaning of words. For example, in Spanish, inglés means “English”; ingles: “groins” (plural of “groin”); whereas in French we have to differentiate between aine (groin) and aîné (elder), hence the importance of keeping accents (and cedilla) in French.