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Profiles in Tech: Chris Messina, Creator of the Hashtag

A hashtag is a symbol used on social media that categorizes messages based on specific topics. There is no set of rigid rules for using hashtags, and they are often used for entertainment, as well as categorization purposes. But who is the mysterious creator of the hashtag, and how did he come up with this popular, creative idea? Chris Messina, an open source advocate, created the idea for the hashtag in 2007. Here is some information about Chris Messina, and how the inspiration for the hashtag came to be.

Background

Chris Messina was born on January 7, 1981. He has been an open source and open standards advocate during his career, which advances the notion that original source code should be made freely available to everyone. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2003 with a BA in Communication Design. He was working with Citizen Agency, which is an open web advocacy group for Google, when he came up with the idea for the hashtag. He is now the head of Community and Growth at Neonwob, which is an art trading website.

Idea for Hashtag

The hashtag was originally called the “pound” signal in 2007. Messina thought that twitter users could use this symbol to make groups or categorize specific content. They could serve as a way for users to search for information on twitter. (Later, hashtags would be used in many other social media outlets as well.) In 2007, He originally called them “channel tags”. Messina tweeted the first message with a hashtag, talking about using the hashtag for tweets. He wrote, “How do you feel about using #(pound) for groups. As in #barcamp (msg).” (2007). Twitter rejected the idea at first, saying it was too nerdy, and would never catch on among the general public. Despite Twitter’s prediction, hashtags caught on anyway, and have been used on other social media sites for categorization, such as Facebook.

Notable Quotes by Messina

On why Messina let the hashtag become a free device, instead of patenting the hashtag as his own creation:

“I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down his stupidly simple but effective idea.”-Chris Messina

On hashtags and how they have evolved, and what people think of them:

“In the beginning, people really hated them! People didn’t understand why we needed hashtags, and the biggest complaint was that people just didn’t like how they looked.”-Chris Messina

Conclusion

So how could an idea that was too nerdy and weird become such a fascinating trend in the span of a few years? Most great ideas from innovators in tech start out with few supporters, and only grew once proven their effectiveness and popularity. Now hashtags are known as being a great social marketing tool that businesses and individuals alike can use to draw attention to specific topics.

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