Will Twitter Chuck Hashtags and @-Replies?
— Vivian Schiller (@vivian) March 19, 2014
In a comment that sent an entire community into a frenzy, Twitter Inc.’s (NYSE:TWTR) head of news, Vivian Schiller, alluded that the site has been seriously considering doing away with @-replies and hashtags, some of the platform’s most recognizable features, according to Mashable. Both hashtags and @-replies have become ubiquitous on other social media sites as well, such as Facebook and Instagram, leaving skeptics to wonder, “Just what will the internet do without its beloved hashtags?”
For the unschooled, @-replies are currently the only way to link another account to a tweet; in other words, the other user won’t receive a notification unless an @-reply is added. Hashtags are a way of denoting search terms or news topics, though often users get a little #hashtaghappy and overuse the symbols. The hashtag is currently the most effective way of linking tweets that address a particular subject area, though keywords are also used.
In a Denver conference, Schiller noted that @-replies and hashtags were becoming “arcane;” Twitter is hoping to hide the symbols while maintaing the functionality that they bring to the site. The move would help to bring “the content of Twitter forward,” whilst “pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background,” CEO Dick Costolo added, per Mashable, in a February earnings call.
Twitter’s also betting that doing away with its @-replies and hashtags will help make the platform more user-friendly and for new and casual users who might find the “scaffolding” that Schiller mentions to be a bit of a learning curve. Costolo notes that while Twitter has “a massive global awareness,” it needs to “bridge that gap between awareness of Twitter and deep engagement on the platform.”
By removing hashtags and @-replies Twitter also hopes to “increase high-quality interactions and make it more likely that new or casual users will find this service as indispensable as our existing core users do,” Costolo said, ”we don’t think we need to change anything about the characteristics of our platform, we simply need to make Twitter a better Twitter,” he added.
Twitter has already undergone a number of tests and changes this year, many of which were implemented with a similar goal in mind: making Twitter more approachable and easier to use. Costolo notes that Twitter “took initial steps in [the direction of ‘removing scaffolding’] with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions in October, and we’re already starting to see early signs that those initiatives are working well.”