Facebook adds hashtags, mends missing link to pop culture

The social network bends to support a mainstream mode of digital expression popularized by a competitor.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read

Facebook has added support for hashtags, fixing a broken link that prevented its 1.11 billion members from associating themselves with celeb gossip, breaking news, and popular memes.

"Starting today, hashtags will be clickable on Facebook. Similar to other services like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, hashtags on Facebook allow you to add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion," the company wrote in a blog post Wednesday announcing the update. "When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you'll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic."

Click on a hashtag to view a feed of what other people are saying about an event or topic. Screenshot/Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

Popularized by Twitter, hashtags, or content tags denoted by the "#" symbol, allow for nuanced articulation and let social networkers insert themselves into real-time conversations happening around events, television shows, and breaking news. On Facebook, members will now find that hashed words and expressions are clickable, whereas before they were dead text.

The company said that people can also search for hashtags from the search bar, click on hashtags that originate from other services such as Instagram, and compose status updates right from the hashtag feed.

The addition comes at a crucial time for Facebook, which is quickly losing relevance with tweens and teens who are getting more enjoyment out of other services such as Twitter and Instagram. The belated addition won't immediately repair the service's reputation with this hashtag-loving crowd, but it could instantly boost overall engagement on the site and encourage some to choose Facebook over Twitter when chatting about their favorite television shows.

For the time being, it looks as if Facebook's hashtags work on the Web only. The company said it plans to release new features as well as its own version of trending of topics in the weeks ahead.