FP employees13 Oct 2022 17:55:50 IST
Twitter is experimenting with a classic feature that dictates how people use the platform — clickable hashtags. Twitter doesn’t want to make most hashtags clickable and only wants to make branded hashtags or specially generated tags that brands and businesses pay for clickable.
Clickable hashtags are pretty important to how people experience Twitter. Clicking through hashtag links is a convenient way to find more tweets on specific and niche topics. And they are so useful for browsing content.
Jane Manchun Wong, a notable security researcher, recently tweeted a screenshot of what appears to be an experimental change to how hashtags work in the Vogel app: In this case, as Wong notes, this change appears to include hashtags with no clickable links.
Twitter is working on an experiment where #hashtags are no longer clickable links
Not sure what this is for… pic.twitter.com/DdcYyDVaNM
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 10, 2022
Wong’s screenshot shows a single tweet with a single hashtag and nothing else. And since the hashtag in Wong’s screenshot is just a plain word and not associated with a trademark, the hashtag only appears as plain text rather than a clickable link as it normally would.
Another way to monetize Twitter is to reduce the functionality of hashtags and make them clickable only when it’s a form of paid advertising. But if Twitter is experimenting with this here, it seems like an odd move.
Hashtags are part of what makes Twitter a place to nurture communities, build movements, and keep up with the clutter in those around us. It seems a mistake to limit some of the usefulness of hashtags to just brands and their promotional tweets.
Chris Messina, the creator of the hashtag, shared a meme that succinctly summarizes his thoughts on Twitter’s latest experiment.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 10, 2022
Hashtags, or clickable hashtags, on Twitter have been very important not only for the platform but also for internet culture. There is a very good reason why almost all social media platforms have this functionality. Hashtags have also been vital in a number of social justice movements to get off the internet and into the real world.
Sure, there have been issues with how hashtags have been co-opted for nefarious purposes in the past, but getting rid of them cannot possibly be a solution. Seeing a rudimentary feature like this behind a paywall is certainly not going to sit well with the most avid Twitter user.