The # in the crosshairs

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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Has the hashtag done its dash?

Useful though they might be, the #visual #pollution #of #overuse #on #Twitter has reached infuriating proportions, and its days could be numbered, especially now that Twitter executives have, according to Jess Collen, writing at Forbes.com, hinted that it could be on the way out.

The hashtag has become close to ubiquitous – note least in popular music where “hashtag mania”is in evidence.

Indeed, writes Collen, it has become “a practical and personal cultural shorthand for the digital generation, equally adept at being deployed for comedy as it is for categorising ephemeral communications”.

And yet, before we know it, “it could fade back into the background of our online lives”.

Comments from Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, earlier this month hinted at the demise.  Twitter sees the symbol as “arcane,” at least in terms of technology. In programming language, the # has apparently always been used with some significance to telegraph an upcoming comment. So in this context, she’s absolutely correct. But only if you discount the cultural aspect, which is almost impossible to do anymore. Hashtags developed on the microblogging platform out of a need to group ideas and file fleeting conversations for future reference. With improved search functions, lists and filters and any other number of enhancements made to social media in the intervening period, hashtags may now be something of a first generation Twitter relic. Should they not be forced, then, to go the way of dial-up connections, email forwards, and CCs?

It may be too soon for an #obituary, however, Collen reckons. “Hashtags have in ingrained place in our techno-centric culture,” he writes, “and will fight for their right to stay at this party, regardless of who wants to give up on them.”

Collen’s concluding thought: “#DontDitchTheHashtagquiteyet.”

 

See also: Hashtag mania in pop music

The life and times of the @ symbol

What does #ttrttpt mean?

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