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Opinion Editorials

Could QR codes be just a passing trend in technology?

QR codes are popping up everywhere, but there are tremendous obstacles in place that have yet to be resolved, which is why they are likely just a fad.

QR codes are popping up everywhere, but there are tremendous obstacles in place that have yet to be resolved, which is why they are likely just a fad.

All the rage

QR codes are all the rage, we’ve been talking about them here for years, but are they really the next big marketing tool everyone is being pumped up about at conferences? Is it the fountain of youth, the elixir of life? Doubtful.

The NWMLS has already banned the use of QR codes in listing photos and we predict more associations will follow regardless of whether or not there are member complaints.

Hurdle one: security

The concerns over security and anonymity of QR codes has already been addressed here and I think that’s a major hit to the viability of the QR code industry.

Some will argue that scanning a QR code with an unknown destination is the same as clicking a shortened link that has not been verified by the user (a common web user behavior), but we would point out that that is a bad argument… it’s true and we agree with it- we don’t click links we can’t immediately identify and don’t encourage anyone else to do it either unless from a trusted source.

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Hurdle two: user adaptation

One major hurdle to QR codes is that smartphones do not have them built in natively which is prohibitive to adoption. Not only do people unaware of what QR codes are have to decipher what the black and white code means, but they have to download an app that will read that code for them- marketers are challenged by fitting all of those instructions in a tight, attention-getting way in a limited space.

Hurdle three: app confusion

Another difficulty still in existence is that confusion surrounds the two main types of QR codes- the proprietary Microsoft Tag technology which is still black and white but is made of triangles and can only be read with the Microsoft reader app versus the standard QR codes which are black and white and made of squares.

Hurdle four: mobile ready sites

Yet another challenge is that many people are unaware that their sites are not mobile ready. I recently scanned a QR code that went to a hideous Realtor website that I couldn’t read without zooming in- the URL offered should be optimized for mobile when promoted via QR code and we’re not finding that to be true in many cases.

Hurdle five: lighting

Another problem with QR codes is the same with barcodes- shadows interfere with the code being read, and if it bends in any way it is unreadable. There are many more hurdles with QR codes, but we’ll stop with these five, you get the point.

Why QR codes could be just a novelty

But beyond all of that, QR codes are short sighted and although they are useful and will likely become a staple in the real estate industry for some time, I think maybe they’re a novelty (oh boy, I can hear the angry phone calls now).

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Google has invested in Google Goggles and augmented reality (AR). With Google Goggles, there are already ads that you can snap a picture of and have the option to go to their website through the app. Augmented reality already allows users to hold their phone up, point to the houses across the street and see pop ups of their values and sales information, including Realtor contact info.

AR and Goggles are more universally adaptable, more forward thinking and it must be noted that if Google hasn’t taken a major shot at a technology (like QR codes), there’s likely a good reason.

Suggested alternatives

Why download an app, go to a URL and figure out what the hell is expected from me and risk getting a virus that will whipe my phone out when I can either:

  • (a) be given a very short, memorable URL (, that tells me in advance where I’m going? I can pull up the URL on my own without having to download an app or learn a new technology.
  • (b) hold up my phone and get information/coupons/reviews of things all around me via augmented reality?

Most people will read a few lines of this editorial piece and rush to comments to tell me how wrong I am and others will disagree on the foundation that innovation is innovation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about QR codes in the comments.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. cbass

    April 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

    hey 2010 called, they want their QR codes back.

  2. Benjamin Bach

    April 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    QR codes are the most overhyped thing since…. well, I’ll let others finish that one 🙂


  3. Sara Bonert

    April 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Just got back from the RE Tech South real estate conference in Atlanta last week. Not only did anyone make a strong case for why you should use them, but they were almost used more as the butt of ‘technology trends’ joke.

    • Lani Rosales

      April 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      I’m so glad, but what is missing is the next step- people understanding what technology plays leap frog to QR codes.

  4. Tim

    June 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    ". . . it must be noted that if Google hasn’t taken a major shot at a technology (like QR codes), there’s likely a good reason."

    Judging by the number or Realtors and direct mail publishers who are purchasing the SPARQ.ME QR code platform, its obvious to see why Google sees QR codes as a threat to its monopoly on AdWords.

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