The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Facebook is looking to integrate the hashtag into its service. Although Twitter does not own the concept of the hashtag, the company has popularized it to the point most people associate the phrase with the social network.
The WSJ cited “people familiar with the matter” in its coverage, but wouldn’t elaborate further. These individuals reportedly said the feature isn’t being introduced “imminently.”
It’s unclear how much work Facebook has put into a potential hashtag feature, assuming it really does exist. Given the company’s size, however, we think a select number of engineers very likely have access to a few prototypes and test versions of different ways Facebook could potentially implement the hashtag.
If Facebook were to adopt the hashtag, it would presumably do so for the same reasons as Twitter: to let its users organize and filter messages around a single topic or theme. This would yield yet another way to browse the social network, in addition to manually going to people’s Timeline profiles and visiting the News Feed.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Instagram already uses hashtags to let users sort photos. Given that Facebook acquired Instagram last year, hashtags could be a way for the company to bring the two services closer together.
The hashtag, much like the @ sign, was one of the features that made Twitter difficult to adopt for newcomers. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the symbol #.
Once users got the hang of it, however, it blew up. Nowadays it’s hard to find a Twitter feed without multiple hashtags, and many tweets have arguably too many.
Facebook and Twitter regularly grab features from each other as the two social networks continue to overlap in use cases. Many users nowadays have both Facebook and Twitter accounts, although the former service is still significantly larger than the latter.
Most recently, Facebook changed the name of its “Subscribe” button to “Follow” and also renamed subscribers to followers. This tweak came after Facebook built its own button similar to Twitter’s Follow button.
If Facebook decides to add hashtag support, let’s hope it sticks to using the # symbol like everyone else and doesn’t try to “innovate” by using say, the ^ symbol.