The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Twitter is testing out a new feature for hashtags. The way it seems to work is that searching for a hashtag will yield a translation of what Twitter thinks that hashtag means underneath the search term. Twitter declined to comment about the feature for the Journal, so the details remain a mystery.
Twitter sees itself as turning into “the world’s information network,” according to CEO Dick Costolo, so this new feature would make perfect sense. If Twitter wants people to flock to them for information, it behooves them to make the language some users communicate in more accessible to other users. It almost seems like an extension of the sometimes overzealous Bing translation that they added earlier this year.
But if it works well the feature might also mark a shrinking of what hashtags are useful for. They’ve always been available to use as a way to organize a stream of information, but sometimes they’re shibboleths. Depending on the scope and effectiveness of the translator, it might make it impossible to use a hashtags as internal shorthand within a particular community.
Then again, maybe they'll become a playground for some interesting (read: super tame) détournement.