Hashtags and dollar signs

A quick post about the fascinating move Twitter made with the $. Not with dollars, but with the actual sign.

We all know about hash tags. If I type #dave on Twitter, it hots-it-up — pointing to a search for the term #dave. Nothing more than that.

Now they’ve done the same thing with the $. If I type $dave, it’ll make it hot, but it won’t get you much. But try $aapl and you’ll get a lot of people talking about Apple’s stock. (Oooops maybe just one or two.)

Now the # convention was “invented” by a guy named Chris Messina, and it caught on with people using Twitter, and Twitter codified it, by making it hot.

As far as I know the $ was invented by Howard Lindzon, the founder of StockTwits, and it caught on with people using Twitter. He has a site where these links mean something. Twitter does not. But yesterday Twitter codified it. Like the # hashtag it just searches for that string. Howard would have loved to make a deal with Twitter, presumably, that would have had it link to his site. Presumably with a revenue share. Twitter should have done it, imho, because Howard is a very smart and aggressive business person, who understands money and Twitter. They would have made a lot that way. This way — well they’ll for sure be able to get some media companies to follow the convention. But after the Olympics, which probably leaves a somewhat bitter taste with any media company that’s not NBC, and probably leaves kind of a bitter taste with NBC too, maybe they won’t be so quick to send flow to Twitter in the future? I don’t know.

But then I had a ridiculous thought that made me decide to write this quick post, even though I have to leave. Lindzon says Twitter hijacked the use of the $ as a hashtag. Not sure I’d go with that strong a term, but for the sake of argument, let’s use it. They had the power to do that, so they did it. Did they worry about Howard and Stocktwits? Well maybe they did, but not enough to stop them from rolling over him.

But couldn’t the browser guys do the same to Twitter? Maybe they would catch the $ and # before Twitter even sees it, and hijack it for themselves? Link to whatever site they prefer for stock and search. Let’s see I wonder if any browser makers happen to have a search site or a finance site? Heh.


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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