#HappyBirthday Twitter Hashtags: Popular Pound Function Turns 10 Years Old

Twitter tool reinvented how people search and communicate

Hashtag this: Happy 10th birthday to hashtags on Twitter.

A decade ago, web marketing specialist Chris Messina sent off the first tweet with a hashtag — or pound sign — to help sort searches on the budding platform. He asked, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” Apparently, Twitter users felt pretty good about his suggestion.

In an interview with TheWrap, Messina stressed his idea came in a pre-iPhone era, when sorting information online was more difficult. He said “it was surprising” to see the hashtag take off after initial skepticism of social media — and its importance crystalized for him when he saw groups like the Tea Party were even using it to communicate.

Talking about the genesis of his idea, Messina said it was more important to give users a simple solution for organizing info on the web, and that he isn’t bitter he’s not receiving royalty checks from Twitter — even if the platform is making money off sponsored hashtags.

“The design of the hashtag was that no one can control it, no one can stop it. If you allow users to text into their system, they can use hashtags,” said Messina. “It was more important that freedom was preserved, and people’s ability to express and organize themselves than for me to get some check from Twitter at some point.”

Today, more than 125 million hashtags are shared on average on the messaging service, according to Twitter. Back in 2007, the most used hashtag was used a mere 9,000 times, while in 2017 it’s been used more than 300 million times (although Twitter won’t share which hashtag it is).

The hashtag has now become a pillar of communication on the internet, with #OOTD (Outfit of the Day), #MCM (Man Crush Monday), and #NoFilter becoming ubiquitous online. #ThrowbackThursday and #TBT, used to highlight classic pictures, has been tweeted an obscene 120 million times in the past 10 years. It’s also carried over to Instagram, where users can easily scan for pics searching their favorite hashtags. And we can’t forget Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake spoofing the overuse of hashtags in this 2013 skit:


As you’d expect from a platform that thrives on live events, five of Twitter’s top 10 hashtags in the last decade have been from awards shows: #MTVHottest, #MTVStars, #KCA, #iHeartAwards and #BestFanArmy. Altogether they’ve been fired off 3 billion times. On the TV front, #TheWalkingDead hashtag has been used more than any other — although #GoT is on its heels.

If you want to take a stroll down hashtag memory lane, you can use #Hashtag10 on Twitter today to share your thoughts or check out what others are saying.