Twitter could ditch trademark @ symbol and #hashtags

Mar 21, 2014

Twitter is looking for ways to phase out 'arcane' characters to make site easier to use

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

TWITTER may ditch its trademark 'at' (@) and hash (#) symbols in a shake-up of the micro-blogging platform that aims to lower the bar for new users and make functional characters redundant.

Since Twitter's launch in 2007, the two symbols have gathered currency in online communication. But senior executives are now looking for ways to get rid of them, The Guardian reports.

Vivian Schiller, Twitter's head of news, told a media conference in Denver that @-replies and hashtags were "arcane" methods of communication, and that Twitter was considering how to discard them while retaining the core functionality.

"We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background," said Schiller.

On Twitter, the at symbol allows users to send public messages to each other while the hash symbol is used to denote a popular topic, search term or the subject of a message.

Schiller's announcement comes after Twitter's chief executive, Dick Costolo, made it clear he believed that getting rid of symbols would make communicating through the social network easier. Costelo said that "bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background" would make it easier for new users to join in.

It is not yet clear what form Twitter's changes will take, but other rival networks offer similar functionality without the use of bespoke characters. Facebook and LinkedIn both use a system where typing a friend or follower's name into a status update will generate a link similar to an at-symbol reply.

However, some of Twitter's characters appeared to be catching on. Facebook has recently adopting hashtags to help users group their conversations and find comments aligned with their interests. Analysts say that uptake of hashtags on Facebook has been slow, although a new "Trending" tool – similar to Twitter's and recently added to users' newsfeeds – may help the company make inroads into Twitter's popularity as a news source.

No timeframe has been given for the implementation of Twitter's proposed changes.

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