It’s one of the most famous features of the social networking site, but new reports suggest that Twitter could be about to scrap its iconic hashtags.
Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, made the announcement at a press conference in Denver last week, saying that hashtag and @-reply symbols could soon be hidden from view.
“We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background,” Schiller said at the media event.
She added that the move would be to accommodate the more casual users of the service, saying: “By bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background, we can 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.”
After a furore on Twitter, Schiller quickly updated her profile to state that the @ and # symbols wouldn’t be disappearing completely, but she did confirm: “There’s a lot of creative thinking going on around how to make Twitter more and more intuitive.”
So perhaps we won’t see hashtags scrapped entirely, but they may be hidden from view, or removed from users’ 140 character count. On Facebook, it’s a similar system: you can tag your friends into posts by typing the @ symbol, but it disappears from view once you’ve submitted it. Would this hiding of hashtags and @-replies make Twitter easier to understand to new users, or would it take all of the charm out of the social networking service?
Twitter will have to be careful if it doesn’t want to lose thousands of dedicated users. Hashtags aren’t just a way to communicate on Twitter anymore – they’ve become iconic in the real world too. If the people behind Twitter get this wrong, they may attract new users, but at the cost of losing loyal fans.