When is a hashtag not a hashtag? When it’s on Threads

Threads is testing a new feature to deliver hashtags without the hashtags. We can explain

Threads app icon on iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

The fast pace of Threads updates shows no sign of slowing down: Meta's Twitter killer is currently testing yet another new feature that power users have been asking for. This time it's hashtags, or something rather like it: while it's not quite the same as the hashtags you've no doubt used on other social networks, it works in much the same way.

For now the new feature is only available in Australia, where it's being rolled out in a limited test. But it's clearly destined for Threads users everywhere. So what is it and how does it work?

Why Threads hashtags aren't hashtags

You know how hashtags work: type your post, use the hash mark ("#") and that tags your post, enabling anyone looking for or browsing that particular tag to find it. The Threads version works like that too, so when you type your hashtag you'll see suggested ones below your post – but when you enter or select the appropriate tag, the hash bit disappears. Instead, you just get a standard hyperlink. Clicking the hyperlink will show other posts that used the same tag.

The other big difference here is my favourite: you can only currently use one tag at a time, which is great news for those of us who #hate #seeing #multiple #hashtags #on #people's #posts #especially #irrelevant #hashtags: it's visually horrendous and of little value, so I'm hoping that particular limitation stays.

The other most-wanted feature that's still missing from Threads is direct messaging, which is currently causing some discussion on the platform: Threads boss Adam Mosseri is wording things very carefully by saying that Threads isn't building a direct messaging platform, but that doesn't rule out using the DM platform already built into Instagram – or integrating with Facebook Messenger. 

The reason for the division is because many people have good reason not to want DMs: they're often abused by creepy people online. But others like the ability to take a conversation with a friend or family member private: like Instagram's new Close Friends feature in feeds, there's definitely room for a feature that enables you to have less public conversations. Direct messaging that enables you to restrict who can and can't contact you could be very useful.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).