I have a website at www.flickwit.com. I would like to introduce tags to allow users to search for content more specifically than channels. I have been wondering which option would be more acceptable in today's design environment - tags or hashtags? Tags seem to be common, but I have noticed hashtags becoming more predominant. What is the difference and would I be better going with one over the other?

tags hashtags

3 Answers 3



Hashtags are mostly used as unmoderated ad-hoc discussion forums; any combination of characters led by a hash sign is a hashtag, and any hashtag, if promoted by enough individuals, can "trend" and attract more individual users to discussion using the hashtag.

The tag you are talking of in this context is a keyword/index tag http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_term

An index term, subject term, subject heading, or descriptor, in information retrieval, is a term that captures the essence of the topic of a document. Index terms make up a controlled vocabulary for use in bibliographic records. They are an integral part of bibliographic control, which is the function by which libraries collect, organize and disseminate documents. They are used as keywords to retrieve documents in an information system, for instance, a catalog or a search engine.

Going by these definitions, if you want to curate the information then go for tags. For a freeform approach, use hashtags.

The use of hashtags is in the social circuits where there is no need/possibility of curation and the same tags permeate multiple platforms. There is no notion of synonyms and other moderations making it extremely versatile to use and search for.

Tags on the other hand are much more structured, they have definitions and guidelines on when to use which one. They are populated and maintained by a community.

  • 2
    You have some quotes in there but no source. Are they taken from anywhere? (i.e. can you link to the source?)
    – JonW
    Apr 30, 2013 at 16:14
  • @JonW Dammit, knew I was missing something. Wiki definitions.
    – rk.
    Apr 30, 2013 at 17:03

Hashtags are just tags with a form of markdown to let you know that they are a tag. In essence the hash (#) is just formatting.

If you are going go visually mark tags so that they don't look like simple text, then you don't need the hash (#), as it is redundant. It's already clear that these are tags:
enter image description here
Adding a hash doesn't give you any additional information. At the same time it doesn't hurt too much, so it then becomes more of a design issue.

If however you are using tags in the middle of text without any special visual formatting, the hash shows that a particular word has some other semantic meaning. The hash also indicates that you want the text to be considered a tag which allows formatting it accordingly.

Today I bought two #puppies and gave one to each of my children

This lets you know that the topic of the statement is #puppies and not 'children' (as you may otherwise expect) in a simple and clean way that would not necessarily be clear without the hashes.

Similarly, the use in Twitter has grown and there they are formatted as tags simply because they have a # in front of them.

enter image description here

  • Thanks John - that also adds to the definition and helps clear things up for me. Apr 30, 2013 at 16:00
  • 1
    I think you generically mean "markup". In Markdown the Hashtag signifies a Heading level 1.
    – sirtimbly
    Apr 30, 2013 at 16:19
  • @sirtimbly I couldn't decide which to use, as to most people markup is linked to html type formatting, whereas markdown is related to inline markup. I went for "form of markdown" instead as it seemed like the best middle ground. However you are correct that strictly speaking it should be 'markup'.
    – JohnGB
    Apr 30, 2013 at 17:39

The difference between a tag and a hashtag is functionally inconsequenctial. The Hash "#" is a form of markup that signifies that the following word should be treated as a tag. Most tag systems share a common usage, see Folksonomy. Hash tags are uniquely well suited to user written content because they allow users to input text and metadata together in the same input field. But, like most markup, they are not easily discoverable.

Also, the hash indicates (to me) that this tag is related to the twitter hash tag. If you are thinking that your site's hashtags will actually link to the twitter hashtags, then that makes sense. Otherwise if you are using them purely for your own site's content stick with plain tags.

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