Twitter tries to explain hashtags

Don’t know what tbt or oitnb mean on Twitter? The online social media service is now trying to help explain through a new trial feature.

Searches for these clusters of letters following a symbol — known as hashtags — will now display an explanation in addition to associated tweets. The feature, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was rolled out Friday for users of the Twitter app on iPhone.

For instance, Twitter now explains that tbt stands for “Throwback Thursday,” which involves users posting photos from their past, and oitnb refers to “Orange is the New Black,” the popular Netflix series that has sparked social media conversation.

For those unfamiliar with hashtags: Anyone can create one. The symbol was originally started by Twitter users as a way to mark topics and keywords for which others can search. Hashtags can help users locate subjects and tweets in which they are interested without having to follow specific people.

The company has been trying to make its user experience friendlier. Twitter can be bewildering to some new users who aren’t sure whom to follow, what to tweet or what hashtags mean — potentially limiting the company’s growth.

According to the company’s latest quarterly financial statement, Twitter now has 271 million monthly active users, up 6.3 percent from the 255 million regular users in the previous quarter. Mobile users make up 78 percent of all active users.

Revenue for the second quarter of 2014 reached $312 millions, an increase of 124 percent from the same period last year. Twitter’s new product features, such as the service built around the World Cup that provided real-time scoring and match timelines, gave the company a boost in the second quarter of 2014.

The hashtags are part of Twitter’s strategy to widen the service’s appeal, but some users may still be confused by other hashtags that don’t have explanations attached. For instance, no definition is given for MH17, which stands for the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in Ukraine last month.

It’s not uncommon to see Twitter try out new features with a small number of users. The hashtag explainer is not available yet for desktop or mobile Android users, which suggests the company is still experimenting and may not necessarily roll it out for all users. Twitter could not immediately be reached for comment.

While Twitter’s user base is growing, the rate of growth is slowing. And despite its surge in revenue last quarter, the company reported a net loss of $144.6 million.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Panel: Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help

They have failed to increase sales by making new riders out of women, minorities and millennials.

Costco rises as results display big-box retailer’s resiliency

Their model has worked in the face of heightened competition from online, brick-and-mortar peers.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

$4.99 sandwich promotion irks some Subway business owners

Management insists that “most franchisees support the promotion.”

Most Read