South By Southwest this year was plagued by QR codes. The two-dimensional pixel squares seemed to be anywhere that was even vaguely flat: on plenty of posters, but also on t-shirts and the sides of buildings. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were even temporarily tattooed on people’s arms.
I’m sure that this will be the high point of QR codes, though. The thing is: they don’t work. Not technically, but socially: I didn’t see anyone scan one in, and neither did anyone else I’ve asked. (Did you? Call now for your reward: some QR code scanning software!) After all, when you’re running between breakfast tacos, panels, lunch, talks, barbecue, cocktails and beer, the last thing you want to do is stand around and wait thirty seconds - or more - waiting for your phone to figure out what the URL you’re looking at is.
Even in Japan - where QR codes are still common - they’re dying out, at least in the obvious use case of encoding a URL, which (as the article points out) had special challenges. In the US, where you can have a nice, memorable URL, they make almost no sense at all. If you want your company to be a mystery, great, but obscurity is probably more likely than people saying “I found out about Product X through this exciting code!”
Next year, the fad will have ebbed. There’s one possible reason that won’t happen: if Apple adds QR code reading to the Camera application (as opposed to just an API method) then it might be even worse. Really, though, I hope they quietly die off.