Facebook is adding hashtags to its service, in a move to channel discussions on the free content ad network just like Twitter does.
Rumours surfaced in March that Mark Zuckerberg's cloud-powered ad giant would adopt hashtags on its website.
Confirmation came via a Facebook blog post on Wednesday that it is now using the symbol to better organise content shared on the network. It said:
To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what's happening or what people are talking about.
To bring these conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics. As a first step, we are beginning to roll out hashtags on Facebook.
The feature encourages users of the site to open up their conversations with people who aren't necessarily their "friends" on Facebook - no doubt to juice up more ad revenue.
However, the company added that Facebookers can "control the audience". So those with existing settings for posts to only be seen by friends will find the same controls in place when using the hashtag function, Facebook said. This can be tweaked on individual posts where users decide they want to share a topic with a wider number of people.
Zuck's recently-launched Graph Search can now also be used to track down specific topics by using the hashtag in Facebook's search bar.
Arguably, Facebook is competing with microblogging site Twitter, which brought the hashtag neologism into common parlance. However, Twitter in fact took its inspiration for using the # symbol to channel conversations from the Internet Relay Chat protocol (IRC).
And the hashtag is not locked down to one service, but instead is used by all sorts of Web 2.0 outfits (such as pic-mangling service Instagram*) to help curate topics and - ultimately - make those online chats easier for semantic ad-targeting. ®
* Vulture Central's backroom gremlins once heard Instagram's photo filters described as “like looking at the world through a pair of urine-filled goggles”. We felt this snippet was too good to leave out.