Skip to main content

Twitter experiments with a major change to hashtags

Update October 13, 2022: Twitter reached out to Digital Trends to clarify a few points about its current experiment with hashtags and had this to say:

This is a temporary test visible to a small number of people on web only. We have no plans to remove hashtag functionality on the platform.

Clickable hashtags are kind of important to how people experience Twitter. Clicking through hashtag links is a convenient way to find more tweets related to specific and niche topics. And they’re so useful for browsing content that other popular social media platforms (like Instagram and TikTok) have them too.

So why would any platform, especially Twitter, want to experiment with reducing the functionality of such a feature? We don’t know. But apparently, that is what’s happening. On Monday, Jane Manchun Wong tweeted a screenshot of what appears to be an experimental change to how hashtags work on the bird app. In this case, as Wong notes, that change apparently involves having hashtags without clickable links “unless the tweet contains branded hashtags like #OneTeam and #Periscope that brands pay to add an icon next to hashtags for a while to promote stuff.”

Twitter is working on an experiment where #hashtags are no longer clickable links

(unless the Tweet contains Branded Hashtags like #OneTeam and #Periscope that brands pay to add an icon next to hashtags for a while to promote stuff)

Not sure what this is for…

— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 10, 2022

Wong’s screenshot shows a single tweet that features a single hashtag and nothing else. And since the hashtag featured in Wong’s screenshot is just a simple word and not affiliated with a brand, the hashtag only appears as plain text, not a clickable link as it normally would be.

Reducing the functionality of hashtags and only allowing them to be clickable if they’re a form of paid promotion could be another way to monetize Twitter. But if that’s what Twitter’s experimenting with here, it seems to be an odd move. Hashtags are part of what makes Twitter a place for cultivating community, building movements, and keeping up with the messiness of our fellow humans. It seems like a mistake to limit part of the usefulness of hashtags to just brands and their promotional tweets. Promotional tweets and those sponsored hashtags that can’t be removed from the What’s Happening sidebar are already a blight on Twitter. We don’t need more of them and they shouldn’t be the only ones with hashtags you can click through.

And if you were wondering what the inventor of the hashtag Chris Messina thinks of all this, he’s already tweeted his response: A single finger-wagging GIF.

— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 10, 2022

Anita George
Anita has been a technology reporter since 2013 and currently writes for the Computing section at Digital Trends. She began…
Australia threatens Twitter with huge fines over hate speech
A stylized composite of the Twitter logo.

Twitter could be hit with huge fines in Australia after the antipodean nation’s cyber watchdog asked the social media company to explain what it’s doing to prevent online hate.

The eSafety commissioner said on Thursday that it has received more complaints about online hate on Twitter in the past 12 months than any other platform, and has received an increasing number of reports of serious online abuse since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company in October.

Read more
Over 2.5B Reddit users flee to protest API changes
Reddit website on a desktop.

Over two and a half billion Reddit users have gone dark on the platform in protest of the recent API changes. The protest, named Reddark, has a livestream that sits at 7,199 subreddits going dark at the time of writing, accounting for a significant portion of the platform. The protest briefly caused Reddit to go offline, though it's back now.

In total, 7,806 subreddits pledged to take part in the protest, but some have yet to go offline. The group includes some of the largest subreddits on the website, including r/funny (40+ million subscribers), r/gaming (30+ million subscribers), and r/food (20+ million subscribers). The admins of these subreddits, along with thousands of others, have set the subreddits to private so users can't visit, post, or comment.

Read more
Twitter braces itself after source code leaked online
A stylized composite of the Twitter logo.

Parts of Twitter’s source code have been leaked online, according to a legal filing with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California.

First reported by the New York Times, the contents of Twitter’s source code -- the all-important software that powers the platform and makes it work -- showed up on GitHub, an internet hosting service for software development.

Read more