As the social network got more and more complex, users helped created more functions. User Eric Rice is credited with creating retweets in April 2007. (Via Twitter / @EricRice)
Then, in August of that year, Chris Messina used the first hashtag, giving rise to a cultural phenomena that culminated in... (Via Twitter / @ChrisMessina)
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: "Hashtag homemade. Hashtag oatmeal raisin. Hashtag show me the cookie."
JIMMY FALLON: "Sweet! Hashtag don't mind if I don't. Pretty good. Hashtag getting my cookie on. Hashtag I'm the real cookie monster. Hashtag nom nom nom."
(Via NBC / "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon)
Soon, users were reaching pretty huge milestones, like in 2009:
"Actor Ashton Kutcher, one of the first celebrities to join the social network, wins a race with CNN to become the first Twtiter user to reach one million followers. Oprah Winfrey sends out her first tweet on the same day." (Via YouTube / The Street)
Ironically, the very things that made Twitter into what it is today — the 140 character limits, retweets, hashtags, and all of that — is what is holding it back now.
The Wall Street Journal reports Twitter's growth has slowed considerably, and the complicated interface is one reason to blame. New users face such a steep learning curve, they aren't sticking around.
The New York Times reported the company's chief executive told investors in February, "We simply need to make Twitter a better Twitter." Here's what they've been up to:
A Forbes October cover story reported on how Twitter is linking itself with TV networks to gain new audiences. And Forbes reported again in November the company was looking into "demystifying the language (and the scaffolding) of the service" to address the new user concerns.
Now, that could mean getting rid of the very functions that users have come to know and love — the hashtags, retweets and @ replies.
A Twitter world without hashtags? It seems counterintuitive.
But BuzzFeed reported that a Twitter higher-up recently called hashtags and @ replies "arcane" and said they were working to move these functions into the background. A user sent in this photo, showing what that could look like according to an Android alpha test.
OK, so, maybe it's not the end of the world if #hashtags become a thing of the past — something to bring up on #ThrowbackThursdays. But without them, we might not know what do do during #ThatAwkwardMomentWhen we want to #YOLO.