updated 05:23 pm EDT, Mon August 4, 2014
Some hashtags now have an explanation attached to them when searched by test users
Social micro-blogging service Twitter was discovered to be testing a new feature recently that demystifies the code of a hashtag. The new feature was discovered in the Twitter iOS app, showing the meaning behind some popular hashtags, including those for television shows, Twitter specific events and video games. The feature could help relieve some confusion when it comes to hashtags, but it's unknown if the feature will be adopted.
The Wall Street Journal first noticed the feature in the wild, displaying several hashtags in the program from the perspective of an account based in the United Kingdom. The labels gave meaning to hashtags such as #oitnb, #lol, #smh and #manutd in a search. Those translate to the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, online game League of Legends, a popular Twitter tag "shaking my head" and the hashtag for the Manchester United Football Club.
While many hashtags are easily understood, some abbreviations or otherwise common phrases might have a different meaning than one would think. It wasn't made clear how the hashtags received the labels, but Twitter seems to have included a way for users to indicate if it is accurate. The Journal tested the hashtag for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (#MH17), but was unable to trigger the feature.
It was also noted that the new hashtag feature could be used to find other Twitter users making use of the tag nearby. This could allow for better communication possibilities in smaller areas, or within a neighborhood. The potential to use a feature for small cells of information, such as in the case of protests, accidents or emergency situations could allow news to travel faster if the hashtag is known.
Twitter is constantly testing features to improve the social media platform. Often the company pushes a feature out of a small group of testers to see if it could be something that improves the overall experience for users. Twitter has tested the idea of removing hashtags and the symbol before Twitter names in the past. Recently, it was testing a new way to treat re-tweets, adding in a comment that nested the original tweet into the new message rather than counting toward the 140-character limit.