Creator of the hashtag explains why he didn’t patent it

‘They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one.’


Since debuting on Twitter in 2007, the hashtag has become a ubiquitous tool for connecting and searching, as well as a means of personal expression that has jumped from social media to the lexicon at large.  In light of this monumental success, a Quora user recently posed the question: "Why didn't the creator of (the) hashtag patent the concept?"  

No less of an authority than Chris Messina, creator of the hashtag, stepped up to answer.

For two reasons, primarily:

Claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support - across networks and mediums.

I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.

It also earned Messina a coveted spot on "The 50 best 'bragging rights' claimed on Google+."

Reaction to Messina's explanation was generally positive - for example, "#goodguydeveloper" - and included this useful bit of perspective from David Urquhart:

Why would you spend money patenting something that would be impossible to control and derive income from?

One of my pet hates is when someone desperately attempts to patent and profit from something very minor in implementation. It's the neurotic cousin of domain squatting.

The value of these things is far more in their mass acceptance, and that is either achieved by great chance or expense. That is the appropriate time to assign value.

Rather than some great altruist, Chris has simply proved that he's rational.

Which isn't to say someone else wouldn't have done it anyway.

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