Twitter was also instrumental in rehabilitating another long-neglected mark. The ‘#’—the octothorpe, pound sign, or number sign—was a corruption of the abbreviation “lb,” for libra pondo, or “pound weight,” and though it had been used on telephone keypads since the 1960s it was not the most noteworthy of symbols. All this changed in 2007 when Chris Messina, an advocate for open source software, suggested that Twitter should adopt the practice, already used in some chat programs, of prefixing the names of “channels” or “groups,” with a ‘#’: the hashtag was born, and it spread like wildfire. It has even managed to leap off the screen and into our speech: in 2011, the Canadian opposition leader referred to that country’s crime policies as a “hashtag fail.”
The hashtag, however, very nearly never came to pass. Twitter’s co-founder Ev Williams disagreed with Messina, claiming that the ‘#’ was too “nerdy” and that the microblogging service should instead use computer algorithms to group tweets. Ultimately, the humans prevailed, and the hashtag remains in the rudest of health.
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