Who Owns Hashtags?

In which I exaggerate Twitter’s requirements, postulate about hashtags being gestures and unleash the worlds first fully compliant hashtag.

So, apparently, Twitter owns and everyone has to include that little bird logo next to them, as well as mentioning Twitter if said out loud.

HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA

On a less hysterical note, what happens when Path and Facebook start using hashtags, as they both have announced recently — do we have to include all three logos? Google Plus allows hashtags, so let’s make people put a + after them. Flickr’s mobile app uses hashtags, so let’s underline it with alternating pink and blue dots. Twitter don't even make good use of hashtags, but Diaspora does, so chuck in a Diaspora asterisk too. Heck, @chrismessina created them, let’s put a photo of him next to all hashtags! And he borrowed the convention from IRC — there isn’t an IRC logo I can find, but let’s pay tribute to IRC’s long history by making people display hashtags in a monospace font in green on black!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: the world’s first ever guideline-compliant hashtag:

It is #hashtag, preceded by Twitter, Facebook and Path logos and Chris Messina’s face, underlined with alternating blue and pink dots and followed by the diaspora asterisk and google plus plus sign

This, of course, is nonsense.

Hashtags are gestures. Like waving, a dance move or pulling a face. And just like gestures, use and knowledge of them implies being part of a group of people. No one “owns” them. Particular ones might have been started by a particular known person, or most commonly associated with a particular company, but their utility is determined by the people who use them.

This is what makes them different to top-down categories. Their use is their existence. When one is no longer required, it disappears, a historical curiosity.

For Twitter to require “attribution” seems similar to their attitude toward 3rd party client developers. They're demanding credit for something created by their community — incidentally, something which, at first, they refused to implement.

Bullshit. For once I welcome Facebook being a copycat, perhaps it will relinquish Twitter’s imaginary hold on the humble, expressive octothorpe.

Footnote: Yes, okay, I realise that Twitter’s guidelines aren’t worded as strongly as I imply here. I just wanted an excuse to make a NASCAR hashtag with Chris Messina’s head and postulate a bit about hashtags being gestures, okay?