Facebook reportedly is taking a page from social networking rival Twitter and may start using the hashtag.
The hashtag, which is a word or phrase with the # sign in front of it, enables Twitter users to pull up tweets about a particular subject. For instance, this week, the hashtags #pope and #rome were trending topics on Twitter as users posted and searched for comments about the election of Pope Francis I.
The hashtag has become one of Twitter's most recognizable symbols.
While some users add hashtags to their Facebook posts, there hasn't been a concerted effort at correlating subjects and posts as there has been on Twitter.
Facebook declined to comment on the report and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
If Facebook incorporates hashtags, as Instagram, which Facebook acquired, has already done, it would seem like another step in the evolution of social networking. Since people are accustomed to using them on Twitter, it makes sense to move the functionality to a similar platform.
"I really don't see this hurting Twitter at all," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Other social networks use them, so it's not like Facebook is the first to jump on the bandwagon. What we're probably going to see is more hashtag sprawl or hashtag hash, in other words."
Facebook's use of hashtags could mean the creation of more tools for aggregating hashtags and helping people find the hashtags they want to use, Olds said.
It also makes sense for Facebook to adopt hashtags since they've been getting so much mainstream attention.
During the Super Bowl, for example, many companies dropped hashtags into their commercials. The opposing football teams also promoted the hashtags with the Baltimore Ravens using #RavensNation, while the San Francisco 49ers used #questforsix.
"This is nothing other than Facebook copying another site's features," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "This is part of their strategy, whether it's copying Google+ photography or Twitter hashtags. This will have no impact on Twitter."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.