Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Evolution of Hashtag

The early use of hashtags was extremely annoying, to me. I was distracted by this symbol, I had seen all my life being purposeless on telephones. Especially, when my social media feed was filled with difficult to read paraphrases using "#". I have grown out of the confusion. Now, I am a vigorous and (rather unnecessarily) active user of the hashtag. So much so, that my daily speech sounds as "I am going out with my girls. #GirlPower".

From a symbol that was so obsolete to me that I didn't even know what it is called, to the symbol that I use in my speech. The Octothorpe aka Pound Sign aka Number Sign aka HashTag/Hash is having the attention nowadays as it was given never before throughout history. In contemporary sense of the way, the # symbol is having #TimeOfItsLife.

Where did the symbol come from?
It all started in Roman times where term libra pondo, latin that can be translated into English as "pound weight" was abbreviated as lb (lowercase letter) to indicate the measurement of weight. It was the standard unit in which Romans measured weight. 

Sometime in the 1400s, the abbreviation was introduced in the English language to indicate a pound weight. At that time, there was a common practice to accessorize alphabets with a horizontal cross. So the lower case lb was often written as "℔". Thus, subsequently ‘℔’ was trans­formed into ‘#’.

Fun Fact, the transformation of '℔’ to ‘#’ can be seen in Newton's scrawls. Apparently, it was a common practice in those days. People while scribbling fast often ran their '℔’ to ‘#’. 

The units of measurements were standardized and the symbol became useless, until, the middle of the 1900s. It was during this time, the Teletype Corporation was formulating binary codes for the transmission of letters of the alphabet. In the UK, they code for the (£) (pound sterling) was 10111, but in the USA they didn't need that symbol so they replace the code 10111 with "#" not the currency symbols but the old obsolete pound (weight) sign, because the USA apparently has taken up a pledge to mess up measurement units.

Now since "#" The old obsolete pound symbol didn't actually mean anything, it becomes a catch-all symbol for miscellaneous use.

This different use of code can still be seen in keyboards used in the US and the UK 

This was the time when the use of "#" started to represent a Number Sign in the US. However, outside, the US the "#" symbol is called Hash. On the other hand, the UK did not use "#" at all, they used "№" and "lb” for Number and weight respectively. so basically, it was still obsolete, because numbers do not need a symbol to indicate that they are numbers. 

In the 1960s, the Bell Lab was transforming phone sets to touch tone phone that used buttons instead of a rotary wheel. Their finalized design allowed them to have 2 extra buttons. This is where the marvel happened. Understanding the phones could be used in future to control computers and machines, Bell Lab decided to include symbols that were already a part of the newly created code system. So they ended up using " * " and "#" on phone sets. It was at this point that the symbol was given a term Octothorpe

The hashtag, as we know/use it, was born in 2007. A Twitter user named Chris Messina, used it for an event called BarCamp.

One day in recent history this happened!

how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina ︎ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007

This metadata tag drew attention and someone called it hashtag. On many social media platforms, it is used to declare a searchable metadata tag. Since then, the world has gotten a bit smaller. Hashtags have been extensively used in writing and speech. It was crowned 'children's word of the year' for 2015. 

In my opinion, hashtagging is trend/tool:

It evokes community, even when there is none, be it #feminisem, #peace or #TeamBeardedMen. People can jump in a conversation and discuss almost anything. It instantly unites us with "our people". One feels less alone and secluded. 

Hashtagging is weirdly amusing. Some hashtags are redundant yet they are playful. Not very long ago #TheDress broke the internet. A lama got its time in the limelight with #LamaDrama. 

It is positioned as disclaimers. #SorryNotSorry #WokeUpLikeThis .

Creating an archive of metadata using the hashtag is absolutely amazing. It is regarded as a tagging tool in digital perspective, of being able to click on highlighted word and getting united in a forum on the similar idea. However, apart from tagging ... I wonder would it find any future in literature!?! It has found its place in speech as an indicator of emphasis and declaration. Let's see what future brings for octothorpe. 

Find me on the following; #SocialMedia


  1. Even I used to find hashtags annoying in the beginning and now it is used so often that not using it will make you feel like an oldie on social media.
    Apparently, hashtags are one of the search engine optimization tool.

    Never though about the evolution of hashtag until now. Thanks for sharing this useful post.

    I had always been confused when some people from different countries would not understand if I tell them to note down something and say, "write hash 1 2 3 ..." they will be like "what is hash?" later I realized some people only know of it as pound symbol.

    1. Totally! Initially, I reckoned hashtag as a distraction. It was making it hard to read. Now I can read through it easily because I have gotten used to it.
      It was like, one of the first few days of Facebook's layout is changes ... when you feel annoyed with the updated layout till you get use to it. Once you are used to it, you hardly care about the changed layout.
      I am glad you enjoyed it. :)

  2. Karnika, I was like you...I used to see these distracting symbols all across FB used by youngsters and found it very irritating! Only recently I understood their function and value and no looking back since then! The history of hashtag was interesting.
    @KalaRavi16 from

    1. I totally understand, it takes time to get use to something new... Now we are used to those annoying #s, so they don't annoy anymore. Glad you liked the post!

  3. Great information about the symbols. I guess when ever we start something new it's kind of annoying, but with the pace of time things get smooth & so is with hashtags. Cheers!

    1. Glad you liked it! I agree that new things are sometimes annoying... it has gotten smooth over time.

  4. That was interesting information on the background of the hashtag. I'm learning something new all the time!

    #AtoZChallenge E is for Elle

  5. Interesting. Wow. I wonder if that guy gets residuals for reintroducing the four lines.

    I also hated the hashtag at first. I use it now, but I'm not so good with it.

  6. It's funny cuz I cant imagine my life without it now! //fellow challenger