THE QR CODE COMEBACK

Maligned, misused, and misunderstood

The first attempts to use QR codes in technology and marketing were a failure, and widely mocked. Who can forget the satirical blog, ‘Pictures of People Scanning QR-codes’?

The main drawback was that you needed to install a QR scanner to read a QR code—so campaigns that used them faced a barrier.

But in China the use of QR codes exploded, as a cheaper alternative to NFC contactless smartphone payments driven by super-apps like Alipay and WeChat.

THERE ARE NO BAD QR CODES, JUST BAD USE CASES

The use of QR codes was accelerated when the cameras in Android and iOS began to recognise them natively, without needing a scanner. Apps like Messenger and WhatsApp have taken advantage of this.

Now the UK’s test and trace app uses QR codes, and it’s already common to see them printed out on official posters and displayed in the doorways of pubs, restaurants, and other venues.

Apple uses QR codes extensively in its Stores, for everything from checking in to the Genius bar to online showcases of its products.

They’re not without problems; some people find them confusing, it’s not always clear which app you need to scan with, and codes can be faked to send people to a dodgy site.

But every type of publication, from broadsheet journalism to technology to fashion, has noticed that the QR code is coming back into fashion.

Peter Gasston

@stopsatgreen