Is it Facebook or is it Twitter? At long last, Facebook is finally rolling out the one feature that is touted to be rival social network Twitter’s USP – the hashtag. After adding support for “@” mentions and verified profiles for celebrities a la Twitter, Facebook is moving deeper into the territory of other burgeoning rival social networks by activating hashtags. A word or a phrase that starts with a “#” symbol will now become clickable on Facebook, taking you to a page dedicated to it. This page will contain all the posts that people have put up appended with the hashtag. The other social network, aka Google Plus, too uses hashtags in a similar way and so do Tumblr and Pinterest.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Facebook product manager, Greg Lindley wrote in an official post that, “To bring these conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people and topics.”

Click on a hashtag to go to a dedicated page

Click on a hashtag to go to a dedicated page

Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, already uses hashtags, so the percolation of this feature into the rest of the social network isn't a surprise. Hashtags on Instagram too lead you to a page that is, in a way, a larger discussion. The social networking giant, keeping in mind the large amount of hashtags that are generated from other services like Instagram, will also make third-party hashtags clickable. So, if you happen to share a tweet or an Instagram picture on Facebook with a hashtag, it will now be clickable.

For those who are still in the dark about how a hashtag works, here's a quick guide. Say, you’re watching the India versus Pakistan match in the ongoing Champions Trophy and a friend of yours has a put up a post with the hashtags “#IndiavsPak” and “#ChampionsTrophy”, clicking on them will take you to a page filled with posts, photos and links that contain the tags both by your friends and public at large.

Facebook, rather preemptively, has placed privacy settings above all else with regards to this feature. If your privacy settings indicate that your post should be visible to only your friends, your hashtagged posts will show up only on their results page.

The social networking giant has traditionally been used to post about things that have already taken place, as compared to Twitter where users write about ongoing events. Facebook seems keen to cross over to the present territory that has long been Twitter’s domain. Using “@” mentions take you directly to the person’s profile or page as well as the hashtags feature, first rumoured to hit Facebook in March. At the face of it Facebook seems to be content with assimilating features invented and perfected by rival social networks. It has also stated that, in the coming weeks, it will roll out other features like a list of trending hashtags and other insights, which according to them will “help people discover more of the world's conversations”.

For those of you who have been frantically trying to click hashtags on Facebook in vain, don’t worry. Facebook says that while the feature has already been enabled for some users, like all of its newer features, it might be a few weeks or months before it is rolled out to every Facebook user.

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