Join

Enter Details

Comment on stories, receive email newsletters & alerts.

@
This is your permanent identity for Business Insider Australia
Your email must be valid for account activation
Minimum of 8 standard keyboard characters

Subscribe

Email newsletters but will contain a brief summary of our top stories and news alerts.

Forgotten Password

Enter Details


Back to log in

The Inventor Of The Twitter Hashtag Explains Why He Didn't Patent It

Chris MessinaChris Messina / LinkedInChris Messina, inventor of the Twitter hashtag.

Chris Messina, the former Google designer who first proposed that Twitter adopt the hashtag — or “pound” symbol, as it was called at the time — has explained on Quora why he never bothered to apply for a patenton the idea.

A patent could have given him ownership of hashtags as an HTML-activated device that allows Twitter users to sort their feeds by topic. In theory, he could have licensed hashtags to Twitter made a huge sum of money.

Of course, that’s not what happened.

Messina first proposed that Twitter users use a hashtag to create “groups” back in 2007. Here is his famous, first-ever tweet using a hashtag:

But Twitter rejected the idea, he later told the Wall Street Journal:

“[Twitter] told me flat out, ‘These things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on.'”

Now, of course, even Facebook has adopted the hashtag as a news feed sorting mechanism. Twitter would be almost unusable without hot-linked hashtags.

On Quora, Messina explained why he chose to let the hashtag become a free device anyone can use and not a licensable product that he could have made money from:

  1. claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support — across networks and mediums.
  2. I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.

Messina is now head of community and growth at Neonmob, an art trading web site.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn


Tagged In

hashtags twitter