Chris Messina, a former Google designer, first proposed the hashtag idea on Twitter back in 2007. However, he wanted to use the ‘#’ symbol as a way to create “groups”. Here’s his first tweet proposing the idea:
Much to his chagrin, Twitter rejected his idea then but took it up years later as a news feed sorting technique. Had Messina patented the hashtag idea back then, he could have earned quite a sum of money. However, he had two pretty good reasons for letting the hashtag become public property. “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,” Messina explained. “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 relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.”
To learn more about Messina and the birth of the hashtag, check out Business Insider’s article here.