Facebook Adds Hashtags #finally

Image via Flickr/ misspixels

I remember first getting a Twitter account in 2009 and wondering why everyone was mashing number symbols and random words together so frequently. Since then, I’ve gotten used to hashtags as a way to organize a public conversation, or just use them ironically in a joke.

Facebook announced yesterday that it too would be joining the #hashtagrevolution. Many other social media sites, like Instagram and Pinterest, already incorporate hashtags. Facebook may be late to the ball game, but it’s better late than never.

Greg Lindley, Product Manager at Facebook, made a blog post about the reason to include hashtags on Facebook:
“Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share their thoughts on big moments happening all around them,” he wrote. “Whether it’s talking about a favorite television show, cheering on a hometown sports team or engaging with friends during a breaking news event—people on Facebook connect with their friends about what’s taking place all over the world.”

Now Facebook users are able to click any hashtag on the site. Clicking the hashtag will take them to a public conversation about that topic on Facebook, just like it would on Twitter or any other social media network.

While Facebook said that it will be rolling out the service immediately, the New York Times reported that the network would make the service available to 20 percent of users. The rest will gradually get the feature over the next few weeks.

The current model for Facebook seems to be this: watch early adopters make something new and innovative, then, once the actual innovation is a success, adopt that new idea for Facebook. It’s been working well so far, despite statistics showing Facebook recently losing millions of users.

Hashtags aren’t the only new feature coming to Facebook. To continue to promote public conversations, Facebook will “continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, which help people discover more of the world’s conversations.”

Deeper insights? I like that Facebook is adding features that have been long present in its competitors, but come on. Zuckerberg & Co. have been far from the cutting edge for a long time. They’ve got a ridiculous built-in user base, so there hasn’t been a real need to innovate for some time. Only when they start bleeding users like Myspace did in 2009 will they really try to step up their game.

For now hashtags are just another feature Facebook should have had a long time ago. #abouttime