Chris Messina is a product designer working in Silicon Valley for over a decade. During his stint at an internet consultancy company in 2007, he conceived the idea of hashtags. “There was a small group of us in San Francisco using an early social network called Twitter,” Messina said. “We were thinking Twitter needs some kind of group organising framework.”
The idea of using a hashtag stemmed from internet chat rooms with a pound symbol on them. The idea was then pitched to Twitter, however, the company reviewed it as ‘nerdy’ and not attractive enough.
“I was a little bit dejected but I laughed. I thought, I just don’t know how else we’re gonna solve this problem, he added. But this wasn’t the end. Instead, Messina encourage his friend to use the hashtag.
In October 2007, his friend tweeted about a San Diego wildfire using #sandiegofire. Instantaneously, others started to use the same hashtag and the idea grew to become a big hit among social media users.
“The fact that other people actually emulated him in real time during those fires gave me a sense that this could actually work,” he said. “It turned out that lots of people wanted to have their voices heard and participate in a global conversation.”
Three years later, the Instagram app was launched and users started tagging photos with several relevant hashtags. “I didn’t create this idea for Twitter. I created this idea for the Internet and I wanted anybody who could write text on the Internet to be able to participate in global conversations,” Messina added.