The Resurrection of the QR Code
Remember when QR codes died? Time Magazine sure does - they reported their demise in the 2017 article The 20 Most Successful Technology Failures of All Time. Their quick rise to power in the early 2010s looked like it would only be a blip in tech history.
Then Covid-19 hit. If it seems like you’re starting to see QR codes EVERYWHERE, you’re right. If you’ve dined out in the last two years it is likely you’ve accessed a menu using a QR code glued to the table. QR codes are also being used to add new friends in-game, offer coupons, connect you with marketing materials in varying consumer industries; there are even QR code puzzles you can assemble and scan to see if you’ve won $100,000. QR codes are back, and they are living their best life.
When you step back to look at the inherent value QR codes possess, it makes sense that they’re making a comeback. They were first invented in Japan in 1994 to help with tracking parts in auto manufacturing and they can hold more than 300% MORE data than a traditional 2-dimensional barcode. So why did they die off in the first place? Well, they’re ugly - few would argue they are enhancing your dining atmosphere by sitting on your table. And when they first became commonplace your phone’s native camera couldn’t scan them like they do now. The added step of having to download a dedicated app just to scan a barcode was a big turnoff for a lot of people.
Back to the pandemic. Business owners, particularly restaurant owners, were finding themselves in a bind - printing new menus or cleaning existing menus between each customer was expensive and time consuming. What is a free, easy to set up, and convenient way for customers to be able to view the menu? Googling the restaurant was inconvenient and left room for error, but offering a way to directly link to an online menu made browsing a breeze. With all of the free online QR code generators available, QR codes became the perfect quick fix.
Having exploded in popularity and spanned across industries QR codes don’t look like they’ll be disappearing from the consumer space anytime soon. They are proof that simplicity and function can win out over elegance and innovation when there is need for a solution. It seems safe to say that nowadays it’s hip to be square - at least if you’re a QR code.