Clickable hashtags are important to how people experience Twitter. Clicking on hashtag links is a convenient way to find more tweets related to specific and niche topics. And they’re so useful for navigating content that other popular social media platforms (like Instagram and TikTok) have them, too.
So why would any platform, especially Twitter, want to experiment with reducing the functionality of such a feature? We do not know. But apparently that is what is happening. On Monday, Jane Manchun Wong tweeted a screenshot of what appears to be an experimental change to the way hashtags work in the bird app: in this case, as Wong points out, that change apparently involves having hashtags with no clickable links “unless the tweet contain branded hashtags like #OneTeam and #Periscope that brands pay to add an icon next to the hashtags for a while to promote things.”
Twitter is working on an experiment where #hashtags are no longer clickable links
Not sure what this is for… pic.twitter.com/DdcYyDVaNM
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 10, 2022
Wong’s screenshot shows a single tweet featuring a single hashtag and nothing else. And since the hashtag in Wong’s screenshot is just a single word and not affiliated with a brand, the hashtag only appears as plain text, not a clickable link like it would be. usually.
Reducing the functionality of hashtags and only allowing them to be clickable if they are a form of paid promotion could be another way to monetize Twitter. But if that’s what Twitter is experimenting with here, it seems like a strange move. Hashtags are part of what makes Twitter a place to cultivate community, build movements, and keep up with the messiness of our fellow human beings. It seems like a mistake to limit some of the usefulness of hashtags to just brands and their promotional tweets. Promotional tweets and sponsored hashtags that can’t be removed from the What’s Happening sidebar are already a plague on Twitter. We don’t need any more of them and they shouldn’t be the only ones with clickable hashtags.
And if you were wondering what the inventor of the hashtag Chris Messina thinks of all this, you have already tweeted your answer: A single GIF moving the fingers.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 10, 2022