What is the Future of Hashtags?

The other day, my friend Bill Boyd posed the question on his blog, “Will Hashtags Work in Email?” This is a good question, especially considering how these tags can be used to organize content and discussions between larger groups of people. So, what is the future of hashtags?

Hashtags have become an icon of social interaction as they have evolved from being simply a workaround to allow people to carry an open conversation about a specific topic to a supported mechanism within networks including Twitter and Empire Avenue. These tags allow you to assign a topic or trend to your post which others, talking about the same topic can easily find and respond to.

If you’ve been following my posts on Twitter, you may have noticed that I use hashtags frequently. I use them, in part, to allow people that follow me to easily discover others who are talking about a similar topic. These tags can also help others find you, as they seek out users with similar interests.

These tags can also be found in YouTube. Around the time of their fifth anniversary, YouTube added limited support for hashtags including: #LOL, #FTW, #OMG and #FAIL. When you click on one of these tags, you’re taken to a page that shows others that have used the same tag in their comments.

Oddly enough, Facebook doesn’t currently support for hashtags in terms of giving them extra functionality. While you can use them in your posts and interactions with others, they really don’t do anything special at this point in time. This may be linked to the closed nature of Facebook as opposed to the widely open and public Twitter feeds. Still, the idea of hashtags being available and supported within a network of friends could be useful.

I believe that hashtags have a universal appeal which reaches beyond Twitter and Empire Avenue and could be implemented in a way that benefits users of social networks, and even email, well in to the future.