Hashtag inventor Messina on next big thing on Internet

'Hashtag' inventor Chris Messina has said he had not imagined the symbol would be so widely used on social media, when he started it over 12-years ago as a medium for people to connect on online networks.
 

Idea behind hashtag

In an interview to news agency PTI, US-based Messina said the idea behind hashtag was to have a place online where anybody could start a conversation and others could join in.

"The idea behind hashtag was to have a place on the Internet where anybody can start a conversation, like on a street, and others can join in," he says.

(Image courtesy: Twitter.com/chrismessina)

(Photograph:Twitter)

First use of hashtag

Messina first used the hashtag in a tweet in 2007.

"How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?," reads the 24 August 2007 tweet where he used the symbol for the first time.

He has pinned that post on his Twitter timeline.

(Image courtesy: Twitter.com/chrismessina)

(Photograph:Twitter)

'Never thought of monetising hashtag'

After that tweet, he walked into the office of Twitter and presented his idea, but it was rejected.

His repeated use of the symbol, convincing his friends and followers on Twitter to use it, led the Twitter management to incorporate it in their system. Later, other platforms like Instagram adopted it.

Messina says he never thought of monetising hashtag or he would have been earning in billions. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Power of a hashtag

Over 12 years after it was first used, hashtags have emerged as one of the most potent forces on social media.

The symbol is used everywhere to connect, be it a small marketing gimmick or big campaigns, local event to national events and also garnering support or oppose something, or protests like #MeToo or #CAA.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday addressed students during a "Pariksha Pe Charcha" programme, and said his conversations with them will be "#withoutfilter.

(Photograph:Reuters)

'We cannot introduce the care button'

The inventor does have concerns about the extensive use of social media to influence opinions, abuse the other side and even change voting patterns in democracies.

"My concern is with so much use of social media to communicate, we should not lose the ability to interact in real life. When we are living in a small community and interact with them, we have concern for each other and expect others to contribute to do their bit," he says.

"But, we don't know how to replicate real-world communities which care for each other in the digital world. We cannot introduce that care button on social media," he says adding that real life is more important than virtual life.

(Photograph:Reuters)

What will be the next big thing?

Speaking on online data security concerns, Messina said that in his opinion, Internet platforms should reveal where they would use the information that they collect from users.

Predicting the future of the Internet, he says the next big thing will be "voice-based usage" instead of typing or using touch screens.

(With text from PTI)

(Photograph:Reuters)