Mark Twain’s often misquoted reply to a London newspaper correspondent in May 1897 “The report of my death was an exaggeration” could well apply 114 years later to the recent plethora of articles on the demise of the QR Code. The original source of these articles is a Google statement “Users will no longer find unique QR codes in their Places accounts. We’re exploring new ways to enable customers to quickly and easily find information about local businesses from their mobile phones”.

A frenzy of articles ensued claiming that Google had forsaken QR Codes for NFC and therefore QR Codes were dead. Of those that I have seen the most amusing is on Gizmodo Australia where the author has obviously never used either technology and accompanies his article with an image of an EZcode rather than a QR Code (image below).

I am sure that Google did not drop QR Codes from Google Places because of the imminent arrival of NFC for the simple reason that the number of smartphones that can scan QR Codes will exceed those that can scan NFC tags for some time to come. It is much more likely that they were discontinued because of a combination of lack of demand, the availability of an increasing number of alternative sources and because printing them out and dispatching them was more trouble than it was worth.

Of course eventually NFC will have great uses of its own and replace QR Codes in many use cases such as mobile payments, location-based navigation and point-of-sale activities. However it is difficult to see how marketing activities like print ads can be replaced by NFC technology. QR Codes are cheap, visible, easy to implement, in use, spreading rapidly and anyone can create one in a few seconds. Do not expect to see QR Codes die any time soon.

Gizmodo gobbledygook

12 thoughts on “QR Code RIP”

  1. The benefits of QR over NFC remain, particularly in instances where N-for-Near is not an option or a cheap, fast medium of distribution makes more sense.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. QR Codes need to be visible and NFC need a receiver to be near, those are two significantly different constraints. Off course there’s a big overlap in the way the technologies can be applied but each has a place of their own. I definitely see them coexisting.

  3. Some of these hiccups should be resolved as more QR scanners come pre-installed and embedded on smart phones. Think back to how clunky the internet was in the mid 90’s… hooking up a phone line, getting an Earth link disk at Office Depot, and waiting on a 26K modem to connect. It may or may not be QR, but I wouldn’t write it off just yet. The need for a physical to virtual connection will remain.

  4. Great post. I agree 99%. I think google uses small projects to play around with new technology and that is what they are doing with Places. They are still using qr on Google Charts, goo.gl and I’m sure they will soon use them in other projects. They have the means and the guts to do it and this is why they are where they are.

    Great quote from Mark Twain. Thank you for adding some humanism to this geek world 😉

  5. Hi Roger. I confess to falling into the camp responsible for the frenzy of posts. I remain a supporter of QR, but I also think it’s time for a reality check.

    It’s not as simple as QR vs NFC, or even whether Google is supporting QR or not. If we’re honest about it, QR has not been met with the kind of mainstream adoption that many of us feel is warranted.

    Many factors are involved, and, to be fair, the jury is still out. Still, without a Google or a Facebook or pre-installed readers on iPhones, it’s looking like an uphill climb for mass adoption.

    In a world where Groupon goes from 0 to $6B in six months, QR codes are a sleeper.

    The question is, at this pace, will NFC (or MS Tag or something else) pass up QR? Even with big name marketers fooling around with 2D codes, we are sorely lacking comprehensive case studies that demonstrate long term value.

    QR remains a novelty. At some point we have to know whether early tests will translate into mainstream success, or if QR is destined to remain a lovable, geeky, nerd.

    Original blog post here: http://www.indigitous.com/2011/03/coming-to-antique-store-near-you-qr.html

  6. @Larry “QR has not been met with the kind of mainstream adoption that many of us feel is warranted”

    I think over enthusiasm is part of the problem. QR Codes will never achieve what is currently expected of them, one has only to look at the Japanese experience to know that.

  7. The “over enthusiasm” is most often a function of a handful of people and small businesses who felt they could make a decent living (or small fortune) off of the near-open source QR technology over the past year. That is to say,there’s been a “get in cheap and pocket a lot” mentality.

    The knee jerk rationales and arguments many of us (generally) set forth the past 24 hours in response to Google’s move away from QR is somewhat sad.

    Which is why this blog is refreshing. We all know that QR isn’t going to vanish because a few tech blogs say so. But, perhaps we need to temper our enthusiasm with a dose or two of reality.

    QR will NOT be the golden goose many have hoped. It will have it’s place; a few people will earn a few Quid off it; but, most who’ve been drawn to it and hoped to make a living off it, will have to move on to something else. Perhaps, 80% of us will not be supported by working with QR codes as we’d hoped.

    Let’s face it, QR is being relegated to the “free or cheap” side of advertising, not the high dollar creative spends. Even Home Depot’s efforts are pretty down and dirty…which is not how you attract high volume, repeat users.

    I don’t know where this will lead, but I do feel like a large number of us (myself included) will not even be mentioning QR codes within 2 years. We’ll be off onto something new. Hopefully, where there’s money.

    Here’s a conceptual question (or two): Would consumers care if there were only Microsoft TAG, NFC and one image recognition ad engine? Would they care if they never saw a QR code again?

    If the consumers don’t care at this point, I’d say there’s a real problem.

  8. Completely agree that QR seems to be on the cheap side of advertising, but all these mobile technologies are open-source in one way or another….so those will be the most used as there’s the easiest access.

    it’s just how do you convince someone that your QR code is better than a free-generated QR code?

    I think that might be a little bit difficult.

  9. QR mobile payment is the next big thing and you see as the larger retailers get involve. The transaction cost and security of credit cards will pull along all bystanders…

    Starbucks tested 16 units in 2009…

    QVC has trademark the Qcard…

    Sears has placed QR code in catalogs…

    The consumer will engage where they benefit…

    They are front loading money for coffee and specialty items.

    The question is “Do you have something of value?”

    You should be interested in really one thing ONLY – a certain type of customer.

    Dedicated Customer – One who said with their money…
    We believe in your brand – Starbuck did it and QVC did it.

    The question is “Can you do it?”

    Google is not a marketing firm. They sales ads….

    If I like QVC, I’m not going to a search engine to see their ranking. So who cares if Google is not supporting QR codes. Google is trying figure out social media and why Facebook is eating their lunch…

    To make a long story short. It’s about the raving fan…

    Find your method to make them happy… That’s your pick and shovel in the QR goldmine…


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