It was March of the year 2007. The micro-messaging social media platform Twitter was at the time only a year old, and some of its regular users then were getting frustrated at the lack of any means by which they could filter their incoming tweets to see only what they wish to see.

San Francisco product designer Chris Messina thought about this problem and was inspired by the use of symbols on old internet relay chat (IRC). A few months later on August 24, Messina posted a tweet recommending the use of a symbol for grouping tweets with a similar subject.

Old-timers recognize the symbol he proposed as the number or pound (#) sign. Ten years later, today, people call it a hashtag.

Rise of the hashtag

Not everybody who commented on the historic August 2007 tweet of Chris Messina were supportive of his idea to sort topical tweets on Twitter by adding a “#” to denote a topic title. Ultimately, it did not matter. His idea gradually caught on, as is the term that came to be out of it: hashtag. By 2013 the American Dialect Society named it their word of the Year; in 2014 it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The definition clarifies things too: “hashtag” can mean the word or phrase to which the sign was added to turn it into a topic indicator, or the symbol itself used as a tag, “#.”

Messina, credited as the source of the hashtag idea, has followed the implementation of his idea on Twitter.

In his opinion, its use really took off sometime in 2010, when the Tea Party Movement using the messaging platform began uniformly using hashtags to streamline their communications. But make no mistake; Twitter has no exclusive hold on the hashtag concept. It soon got picked up by other social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, and so on – until it has become a universal and general term.

One decade old

As the tenth anniversary of the hashtag approaches on Thursday, August 24, Twitter which has been the idea’s first home is leading the celebration of its present ubiquitous nature. According to them, there are an average 125 million different hashtags being shared every day o their platform, many of which would become trending topics.

They even gave examples. “#TheWalkingDead” is their most trending TV topic, “#StarWars” for films, “#NFL” for sports, and “#SuperBowl” for events. Then there are tags like #fakenews.

For anybody interested in joining the online celebration of this decade milestone, Twitter’s hashtag for the “#” Anniversary is hashtag10. Chris Messina must be very proud. In his words, the concept of the hashtag gave humanity another way of expressing themselves, no matter how incoherent they may appear to be.