Facebook hopes to become more of a public forum by introducing hashtags on the social network. Following the lead of rival Twitter, Facebook is adding the ability to tag a post with phrases noting that it is part of a larger conversation.
“To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what’s happening or what people are talking about,” Facebook Product Manager Greg Lindley wrote in a company blog post Wednesday. Facebook hashtags, like those on other social sites, will be denoted with a “#” sign.
Although the company has more users than Twitter — about 655 million active daily users compared with Twitter’s 200 million — Facebook has not been as successful as Twitter at marketing itself as a place for online discussion. But the content, Lindley noted, is there.
For example, he said, 88 million to 100 million Americans post on Facebook during prime-time television hours each night and comment actively on what they watch.
Facebook hashtags will work in much the same way they do on Twitter. When you see a hashtag in a post, you can click on it and see a feed of other posts that use the same conversation marker. Users also can search for specific hashtags to find more information about a trending topic and can click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Facebook’s photo site, Instagram.
Posts that have been hashtagged, however, do follow the same sharing and privacy rules as normal posts. So even if you litter your posts with pound signs, no one will see them unless you say they can.
— Hayley Tsukayama
l Switzerland cleared the first hurdle toward ending a long-running U.S. tax probe after one chamber of lawmakers voted to allow banks to sidestep strict secrecy laws to end the threat of criminal charges for helping wealthy Americans evade tax. The draft law is set to face far tougher opposition in Switzerland’s lower house next week than in the upper chamber, which passed it by a decisive vote of 24 to 15 on Wednesday.
l The United States saw its biggest-ever annual increase in oil production in 2012, while the world’s demand for energy grew at a slower pace than the year before, BP said in its annual Statistical Review of World Energy, released Wednesday. The United States produced 8.9 million barrels a day, up 13.9 percent from 2011, BP said, while global oil production rose by 1.9 million barrels a day.
l India’s Apollo Tyres agreed to buy Ohio-based Cooper Tire & Rubber for about $2.5 billion in a deal that would make it the world’s seventh-largest tire maker. The acquisition of Cooper — the second biggest American tire maker and No. 11 globally with annual sales of $4.2 billion — will give Apollo access to the U.S. market for replacement tires for cars and light and medium trucks, Cooper’s main business.
l ESPN will stop broadcasting in 3-D by the end of the year, the network said Wednesday. The sports network said there were too few viewers to make 3-D broadcasts worth it. It did not say exactly how many viewers it had, but the number was “extremely limited and not growing.” Last year, only 2 percent of television sets in the United States were able to show 3-D programming, according to the most recent data from research firm IHS Screen Digest.
l Exxon Mobil was granted time by regulators to carry out a second round of testing on the ruptured Pegasus oil pipeline, after the firm said an initial investigation into the reason why the nearly 70-year-old line failed was not conclusive. The 95,000-barrel-per-day line has been shut since spilling thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil into the town of Mayflower, Ark., in late March.
l Safeway, the second-largest U.S. grocery-store chain, agreed to sell its Canadian stores to Sobeys for about $5.7 billion in cash. The proceeds will be used to pay down $2 billion in debt and buy back stock, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway said Wednesday. The boards of both companies have approved the deal. The sale will give Safeway a jolt of cash as new chief executive Robert Edwards, who took over last month, works to reverse slowing sales gains amid competition from Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery-store chain, and Wal-Mart Stores.
— From news services
l 8:30 a.m.: Weekly jobless claims and retail sales data for May released.
l 10 a.m.: Weekly mortgage rates and business inventories for April released.