Chris Messina originally envisioned Twitter hashtags — which he initially was calling ‘tag channels’ before I dubbed them hashtags — as a way to target messages to a group of people. That’s more the way we use hashtags in tweetchats, and not at all the way we use them to indicate the topic of a stray tweet.
Looks like Kik has implemented hashtags that are more like he initially thought about them:
Jon Russell, Kik Introduces Hashtags To Bring Mini Social Networks To Its Messaging Service
Now, with hashtags, Kik co-founder and CEO Ted Livingston said the company is back to the basics.
“Hashtags resumes our focus on the core chat experience. We’ve spent a lot of time building up content, and now we think we’ve nailed the platform,” Livingston told TechCrunch in an interview.
Livingston said the inspiration for hashtags comes from the early days of Facebook when users didn’t worry about their updates because the service was just used by friends. Nowadays, they need to keel a balance between fun and also what is acceptable in the eyes of employers, family and others, he said.
Hashtags is also a response to his own experience, too.
“Groups can be so annoying to make,” Livingston explained. “That really hit home when I got married this summer — it was super tedious to add everyone but important to have us all together.”
Now Kik users can communicate around a wedding, Christmas party or any other event by dreaming up a hashtag for their group of up to 50 users. Others enter the group once they click on the hashtag, or open it up for themselves, removing much of the friction involved in pulling large numbers of people together.
Beyond just events, Livingston said hashtags could be used to discuss any topic — right from cars, to football, to fashion. Users can make the hashtag obvious if they want to attract attention, or more obscure (and thus harder to find) if they want to keep things to those they know. (Kik provides group admin tools to ensure unwanted users can be booted out of groups, or banned, if necessary.)
Note that making the groups administered means they aren’t the freeform ‘groupings’ that I was writing about in 2007, which are more like the way that tags work in Flickr or Twitter. Everyone who uses a tag like ‘#omg” are members of a grouping just by virtue of using it: they aren’t invited.
Update: Fred Wilson wrote about his today, saying
Ted Livingston, Kik’s founder and CEO, called this “hashtags as social networks” in a blog post yesterday. I agree with Ted that Facebook’s model of the one network to rule them all has not really worked and that many of us are using messengers as defacto social networks. My friend Kirk told me that his wife’s family uses a group in WhatsApp like their personal family facebook feed. I think that’s the phase of social networking we are now into and so Kik’s hashtag as social network model makes a ton of sense to me.