Are All 2d Barcodes Now QR Codes?

The Ballantine’s Whisky “Human API” series, which allows users to advise and comment in real-time as artists work on projects, caused mass confusion in the technical press last week. When Parisian tattoo artist Karl Marc tattooed (live) a design incorporating an EZcode 2d barcode onto his friend Marco’s chest (video below) most technical reporters thought it was a QR Code. Here are some examples:

Gizmodo – Jack Loftus – Interactive QR Code Tattoo In the Name of Marketing
CNET – Chris Matyszczyk – Man has QR code tattooed onto chest
Ubergizmo – Edwin Kee – QR code tattooed on man’s chest
Mashable – Brenna Ehrlich – Get a QR Code Inked on Your Chest

There are many more like this but the question is how did this happen? I have a couple of theories. The first is that the high profile tech news websites engage in mass plagiarism and therefore tend to repeat each others mistakes. The second is that tech reporters are no longer subject to editorial control and hence there is no one checking on the quality of their work. However it could just be that QR Code is becoming the generic term for a 2d barcode but surely tech reporters should know better. What do you think?

Of more interest to readers will be why a proprietary code was chosen rather than a QR Code so I asked Karl if a QR Code would perhaps have been a better choice, he replied as follows: “You’re right, we would have preferred to use a a standard QR code for the tattoo. Unfortunately, we were limited by the tattoo process itself: A QR code contains too many small squares to be tattooed in a small area, while the EZ code fits perfectly. As tattoos tend to blur with time, we wanted to make sure that the code would continue to work correctly over the years. There was too much risk with the QR code. My client had also let me know that he did not want a 6 inch QR code tattoo on his body, he preferred that the code be integrated into the tattoo design“.

3 thoughts on “Are All 2d Barcodes Now QR Codes?”

  1. We’ve discussed this in the past on twitter. I think its a result of SEO and hashtags. People generally just want to know about 2d barcodes, and the majority of people who are reading and passing these articles will use larger terms to keep it in the public eye rather then use a specific term ( and they might not actually know ). Additionally, QR has become the umbrella search term for 2d barcodes, flashcode, jagtags, and mstags. I think this causes some confusion, but more or less makes it easier to follow how these codes are being used and why.

    Overall, I think its good for the QR name, even if it does get confusing. Next we have to teach people about the word “mobile”

    -Patrick

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