What a #copycat: Facebook apes Twitter with hashtags

The new feature lets users more easily surface content by topic

Hashtags, the popular tool used on Twitter and in an array of other social sites to surface content around specific topics #likeso, are coming to Facebook.

The introduction of hashtags, which are clickable right now, is just the first of a series of features the social network plans to roll out to "surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people and topics," the company announced Wednesday on its website. Other features in the works include trending hashtags and "deeper insights" to help people discover more in conversations, Facebook said.

"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," Facebook said.

Hashtags on Facebook come as the social network faces mounting pressure to demonstrate its value to its base of more than 1 billion users as other social networking services, like Twitter and Pinterest, continue to gain traction.

In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, some teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook in favor of other services like Twitter and Instagram, citing excessive sharing and "drama" as possible reasons.

Hundreds of millions of people now use Facebook to share their thoughts on what's happening around them, whether it's sporting events, television shows or breaking news, the company claims, but "to date there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what's happening or what people are talking about," the company said.

With the feature, people can click on a hashtag, such as #NBAFinals, to see what other people and pages are saying about that event or topic in a feed, the company said.

Users can search for a specific hashtag from their search bar, or click on hashtags originating on other services like Instagram, Facebook said. New posts can be composed directly from the hashtag feed or from search results.

"As always, you can control the audience for your posts, including those with hashtags," Facebook said. In other words, people will only see the posts in a hashtag feed that have been shared with them. So if a person shares a post with a hashtag with friends, only that user's friends can see the post in the hashtag's feed, the company explained.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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