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Twitter wants to give hashtags more context

We’ve all been there: You see a hashtag trending on Twitter or in something your friend tweeted…except you have no idea what it means or what’s going on. Twitter, it seems, has heard your cries of confusion, and is working on a new feature that should help. According to The Wall Street Journal, Twitter is testing adding explanatory labels to certain popular hashtags in its iOS app. For example, the Journal says, #TBT gets labelled as “Throwback Thursday” with the new label feature, while #OITNB becomes Orange Is the New Black. Not everyone gets this new feature, though—not yet, anyway, Twitter periodically tests new features—such as the Mute tool and various interface changes—on a limited subset of users before it rolls them out to everyone.

Twitter appears to be testing a feature that will better organize its chaotic world of hashtags. The new feature, seen by The Wall Street Journal in the Twitter app for iOS, added an expanded label to some hashtag searches such as #tbt (Throwback Thursday), #smh (Shaking My Head) or #oitnb (TV series “Orange Is The New Black”). The labeling gives the hashtags a sense of legitimacy and order as related to a certain event or subject. Other hashtags noticed by WSJ that appeared to have legitimate associations to it included #lol (“League of Legends,” the popular online game), #manutd (Manchester United, the soccer team), #hhldn (Hacks/Hackers London, a small media/technology event) and #rt (stated to be Russia Today, rather than retweet). It wasn’t clear how these labels were generated. Some included an option for users to rate their accuracy. Many hashtags, such as #MH17 for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, didn’t trigger the feature. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the supposed new feature. Like many social networks, Twitter often tests out experimental new features on select groups. Earlier this year some users noticed the word “retweet” in their apps had been replaced with “share,” and the recent desktop profile design was also tested on random users before its wider release.

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