The #hashtag may be ubiquitous, but Twitter doesn’t credit the guy who introduced it, reports Elana Zak in The Wall Street Journal (10/4/13). @ChrisMessina first suggested the idea of using hashtags to help "identify messages on a specific topic" on August 23, 2007. At the time, he was "a developer and user experience designer at Google." He posted a tweet that read: "how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?" He also wrote a blog post (link) advocating the concept as enabling "a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter."
He even went as far as to create mock-ups of pages "depicting what ‘tag channels’ would look like." The idea "was based on the idea of channels used in Internet Relay Chat and in Jaiku, a Twitter competitor that was later bought by Google." Initially, Twitter was not impressed. "Twitter told me flat out, ‘These things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on," says Chris. But he didn’t give up, and in October, 2007, engineered a breakthrough by persuading a citizen journalist covering "a series of forest fires in San Diego … to use the hashtag #sandiegofire."
Twitter now "has a whole guide on how to use hashtags," (link) but doesn’t mention Chris Messina, who today works for NeonMob, an online marketplace for artists. "Maybe 20 years from now hashtags will seem quaint," says Chris, "but they’re solving an important problem today, allowing people to express more about the content they share in order to connect with more people." Chris also says he’s happy to see the hashtag spread to other social media, such as Facebook, because it "really makes the conversation that much richer and that much more diverse."