FP staffOctober 13, 2022 5:55:50 PM IST
Twitter is experimenting with a classic feature that has come to define how people use the platform: clickable hashtags. Twitter wants to make most hashtags unclickable and only allow branded hashtags, or specially generated tags that brands and businesses pay for, to be clickable.
Clickable hashtags are pretty important to how people experience Twitter. Clicking on hashtag links is a convenient way to find more tweets related to specific and niche topics. And they are so useful for browsing content.
Jane Manchun Wong, a prominent security researcher, recently tweeted a screenshot of what appears to be an experimental change to how hashtags work on the Bird app: In this case, as Wong notes, this change apparently involves d have hashtags without clickable links.
Twitter is working on an experiment where #hashtags no longer clickable links
I don’t know what this is for… pic.twitter.com/DdcYyDVaNM
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 10, 2022
Wong’s screenshot shows a single tweet that features a single hashtag and nothing else. And since the hashtag featured in Wong’s screenshot is just a single word and not affiliated with any brand, the hashtag only appears as plain text, not as a clickable link like it normally would be.
Reducing the functionality of hashtags and only allowing them to be clickable if they are a form of paid promotion could be another way to monetize Twitter. But if that’s what Twitter is experimenting with here, it seems like an odd move.
Hashtags are part of what makes Twitter a place to cultivate community, create movements, and track the mess of our fellow human beings. It seems a mistake to limit some of the usefulness of hashtags to just brands and their promotional tweets.
Chris Messina, the inventor of the hashtag has shared a meme that succinctly sums up his thoughts on Twitter’s latest experiment.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 10, 2022
Hashtags or rather clickable hashtags on Twitter have been very crucial not only for the platform but also for the internet culture. There is a very good reason why almost all social media platforms have this feature. Hashtags have also played a vital role in a number of social justice movements moving from the online to the real world.
Sure, there have been issues with how hashtags have been co-opted in the past for nefarious purposes, but getting rid of them can’t be a solution. Seeing such a rudimentary feature like this behind a paywall will certainly not appeal to the most avid Twitter users.