For better or worse (ok, probably worse), the hashtag, @reply, and retweet have become inextricable from modern language, and it's hard to imagine a time when saying "hashtag blessed" would have seemed insane. But all things must originate from somewhere, and Quartz has managed to track down the founding fathers of all three.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous, the @reply, was actually just appropriating a shortcut that was already being widely used. Until that fateful day of November 2, Quartz explains that the "@" symbol was generally only used as shorthand for "at," and even then only to describe location. But then Robert Anderson (who now works at Square) changed everything.
@ buzz - you broke your thumb and youre still twittering? that's some serious devotion— Robert S Andersen (@rsa) November 3, 2006
Sure, there's technically a space between the two, contrary to current @reply protocol, but without him, it might never have existed in the first place. Hashtags, however, came about a bit more deliberately.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Quartz notes, "Not many people were impressed. Some thought hashtags were ugly and unnecessary. Twitter executives deemed the idea 'too nerdy,' according to Messina." But as we know all too well, that didn't last long.
Then comes the real trailblazer—Eric Rice and his RT invention.
ReTweet: jmalthus @spin Yes! Web2.0 is about social media, and guess what people like to be social about? Themselves. Social Narcissism— Eric Rice (@ericrice) April 18, 2007
When retweets finally started catching on, Twitter incorporated Rice's brainchild in November of 2009 by allowing users to automatically retweet others' tweets.
And all this has happened in just over seven years. Who knows what seven more could bring? [Quartz]
Image: Robert Scoble/Flickr