If you really want hashtags on Threads, and you really want the app to be as close of a replica to what Twitter once was as possible, then this will be a welcome sight.
As you can see in this image, posted by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi, the Threads team does indeed appear to be working on hashtags for the app, which would provide another way to discover trending conversations.
Though there do appear to be some limits. As you can see in the image, Threads could also be looking to implement a tag limit (though that may not relate to hashtags specifically), in order to restrict potential misuse of hashtags to “trendjack” conversations.
Which has been one of the key hesitations of the Threads team so far, that adding hashtags may not be overly beneficial, because for one, you can already search by keyword/topic in order to find related discussions, so you don’t really need hashtags, as such, to uncover the latest content.
Trending hashtags will also inevitably end up getting bombarded with an influx of spammers and scammers, who will be looking to use that attention vector to get more eyeballs on their “offers”, while offensive content from exhibitionists also tends to gain more amplification via unrelated hashtag use.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has repeatedly voiced his concerns about hashtags for these and other reasons, which is also why Threads hasn’t added a "Trending Topics" listing either, because Meta has some reservations about putting too much focus on news content in the app.
Because as Mosseri has noted, Meta has over-promised news organizations in the past, giving them lots of referral traffic for playing along with its initiatives, then cutting them off again as it switches focus. That’s often left a bitter taste in the mouth of publishers, who Meta would prefer to keep posting to its apps, especially as they look to migrate away from Elon Musk’s X, in light of his regular criticisms of “mainstream media”.
Now is the time for Threads to be an open door opportunity, and any initiative which could offer big reach, then see it reduced, could be problematic in this respect.
Though there could also be another motivation in Meta’s hesitance to highlight trending new content in Threads.
By not specifically focusing on news content, and making it a priority for its algorithms, Meta can’t then be blamed for the amplification of questionable content, if indeed that is what ends up trending in the app.
Right now, if, say, the Israel-Hamas war starts trending with certain users on Threads, Meta’s done nothing to encourage that, with the algorithm merely working with user preferences based on the content and profiles that each individual regularly engages with. But if Meta were to showcase this as a top trend, it could be accused of amplifying related discussion, or even incentivizing such posts as a means to boost traffic.
Meta’s also been hesitant to facilitate discussion of COVID, and other sensitive topics within Threads due to similar concerns, in that it doesn’t want to be seen as amplifying harmful, argumentative, and potentially dangerous content.
Both hashtags and trending topics will change this. But they’ll also likely amplify discussion.
So it’s a bit of a weigh up for the Threads team. Do you go for optimal growth, and take direct aim at X? Or do you go for more measured, steady progress, with a focus on growth based on specific user engagement, as opposed to rage-bait, argument, etc.?
Thus far, Threads has leaned towards the latter, but maybe now, at 100 million users, and with an opportunity to pose a bigger threat to X, it’s set to take the leap.