What I found interesting in this article is that it seems to me that Facebook feel into a classic software blunder. They saw a feature in a competing product, Twitter in this case, and wanted to replicate it, without stopping to realize two things. One, why it was popular on Twitter and two, that it wasn’t really all that compatible with how people actually use their own product.
That means that if you only allow your friends to see your status updates, then only your friends will see your hashtag. This would explain why so many hashtags seem to go to empty conversations streams. Unlike Twitter, where everything is public, private hashtags may not have as much of a point, and make users question the real purpose of Facebook hashtags.
Frankly, this was one of the first things that occurred to me when I heard they were rolling out hashtags. How would that work when I post status updates that aren’t public? Is the point really about having conversations, or pushing people to have more public conversations instead of only among their friends? Obviously, if I’m hoping the use of hashtags will somehow get me noticed on a grander scale by anyone following that hashtag on Facebook, I’d make them public, but I’m not sure anyone really uses Facebook that way.
Twitter hashtags are great because they allow me to follow a real-time stream of updates around a topic, or at an event, etc.. Facebook status updates are not a very good real-time conversation, and users don’t really use them in the same way as we would a twitter stream.
Frankly, I’m not all that interested in what random strangers on Facebook say bout a given topic, that’s where I interact with my friends, or my page’s followers. I interact with the world at large on Twitter.
Adding hashtags to Facebook would be like adding music sharing to Flickr. It’s just not what people do there. If you’re developing any product, you should probably understand how your users use it before you try and replicate a feature just because it’s popular elsewhere.
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