Chris Messina, the man credited with inventing the now-ubiquitous hashtag, is joining Uber.
At the ride-hailing company he is the Developer Experience Lead, he wrote in a blog post on Medium. Messina, who started on Monday, is the first person to hold the role, which involves “nurturing, expanding, and championing on behalf of the Uber Developer Platform ecosystem.”
A former Googler, Messina paints an interesting vision for the future of Uber: One much more ambitious than its current taxi and ride-hailing services. He cites UberRUSH, a delivery service, and UberEATS, which delivers food, as example of the “potential” of Uber’s platform.
He frames the company as analogous to Facebook in that it builds a fundamental digital layer for users to interact with. There are thousands of apps built on top of the social network today, and Messina envisions something similar for Uber. Here’s the key part — emphasis ours:
Uber is now a network facilitator built on the widespread proliferation of smart phones, GPS, and excess vehicle inventory in the built environment. But that is where it begins, not where it ends.
As I see and understand it, Uber exists at the beginning of the inevitable shift from an internet experienced on screens to an internet that is present in and connects the everyday things that are all around us.
This is the internet that Mark Zuckerberg is partially describing when he writes about “building a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work”.
The question is not if, but when — and importantly, how — we will interact and engage with this emerging era of the internet.
Like Facebook did for people, Uber will build the foundational platform that will enable people to manipulate and control the world around them. But Uber can’t do it all, and this is where the Uber Developer Platform comes in.
Uber builds the framework, and the developers do the rest.
It’s an area he has experience in: He joined Google in January 2010, leaving in August 2013, and worked to build Google Developers while there.
Uber is frequently embattled in regulatory disputes across the globe as it attempts to upend the established taxi industry. Messina — again pointing to Facebook as a comparison — argues that “the future arrives in mysterious and abrupt ways, and in the present, is often a messy and rambunctious guest.”
He continues: “The Uber Developer Platform is the vehicle I’ve chosen to help bring this future closer to our present reality, and to enable more people to participate in the unfolding of the coming future.”
However, one of his most famous contributions to tech — and wider culture — came in August 2007, when he suggested using the # symbol to organise topics on the then-infant Twitter. Here’s The New York Times on how it went down:
Mr. Messina is no ordinary Twitter user. The self-described “hash godfather,” he officially invented the Twitter hashtag in August 2007, when he sent out a Twitter message suggesting that the pound symbol be used for organising groups on Twitter. (For example, if attendees at the South by Southwest music and technology conference all add #sxsw to their messages, they can more easily search and sort themselves on Twitter.) Though the idea took a while to catch on, it quickly snowballed — on Twitter and offline.
“At first, people who weren’t using Twitter were saying: ‘What’s this pound sign? Why am I seeing it?’ ” said Ginger Wilcox, a founder of the Social Media Marketing Institute. “I would say 2010 was really the year of the hashtag.”
Here’s the tweet that started it all: