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Brace yourselves: the internet may explode. Hashtags, which have long been a way to join a conversation on Twitter but just look odd on Facebook, may be transitioning across to the billion-strong social network soon.
According to sources familiar with the matter, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is working on incorporating the symbol into its systems fully, making the hashtags typed in by its users clickable instead of a mess of strange characters. It is still apparently deciding exactly how it plans to do that though — and whether it will copying Twitter’s method of using the hashtag to allow users to tag updates and join and explore a larger conversation or add in extra functionality.
The social network currently allows users to post tweets with clickable hashtags to their Facebook accounts, if they have linked the two services. But hashtags typed in directly from the service are still in plain text.
The move may be driven in part by increasing integration between Facebook and Instagram — hashtags are an integral part of the photo service too, allowing users to tag their photos with popular terms to make it easier to discover new grams and profiles. If the Instagram hashtags work on Facebook, and link back to the searches on the service, it could potentially drive more traffic back to Instagram after a photo is posted to Facebook.
The WSJ speculates that Facebook is interested in incorporating the hashtag as it will make it easier to follow the progression of an event and increase the amount of time spent on the service. One of Twitter’s strengths is the ability to search for terms and gather news on breaking stories in real time — on everything from celebrity deaths to major scandals, political protests and natural disasters. If Facebook is really so interested in making your News Feed your “personalised newspaper“, then a feature like this makes sense.
If the report is true, it won’t be the first time a Twitteresque function has made its way on to the other big blue social network. Facebook also took a cue from Twitter’s mentioning functionality to allow its users to tag friends in status updates by including the @ symbol back in 2009.