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Is Facebook about to go QR code crazy?

Imagine that you’re walking around a bar. Everywhere you turn you see people wearing shirts emblazoned with checkered barcodes. No one is talking to each other. Instead of dancing and conversing, the majority of the establishment’s patrons are taking camera phone pictures of those around them. Pictures aren’t being taken of people’s faces, but rather of the QR codes on their shirts.

Though it may seem far-fetched to you, this scenario could be right around the corner. It could all be thanks to Facebook. Techcrunch reported this morning that Facebook is experimenting with QR codes. Per the Techcrunch article, some Facebook users have found QR code links on their profiles and Fan Pages. While the links are not yet functional, they point to users gaining the ability to generate custom two-dimensional QR codes.

QR codes act as gateways to digital content. The 2D tags can hold much more information (links, images, videos, etc.) than traditional barcodes. There are countless ways in which the technology can be used. Quick response codes can connect people with geo-based reviews and tours, green ticketing initiatives, brand promotions, product-specific wikis, exclusive media content, and social networking profiles. The 2D barcodes allow consumers to access dynamic content, anywhere at anytime.

When questioned about the new feature, Facebook stayed mum on its use of QR codes. This, of course, leaves people like myself to speculate about Facebook’s QR future.

I think that unique QR code generation is likely to become a mass feature across the Facebook community. In giving users the ability to share their Facebook profiles via QR codes, we will see increased pollination of people’s digital profiles int the real world. The feature would promote sharing of Facebook profiles and Fan pages in the physical realm. Users could take greater “ownership” of their online identities.

I can already see it now: QR code bumper stickers tied to users’ FB profiles, QR code t-shirts, stickers, and other physical embodiments of their digital selves. Transporting one’s Facebook profile into the real world via 2D barcodes, could trigger social connections beyond the confines of the digital space. QR codes could succeed in letting people’s Facebook identities live in the real world. Even though there are a number of QR code generators out there, Facebook’s adoption of the technology would give it mainstream exposure. If Facebook were to feature a QR code generator on its site, the technology would get a massive push forward.

Even though QR codes facilitate the delivery of real-time digital information to mobile handsets, the technology acts as a dynamic bridge between spaces that are really not all that different. If the sharing of QR codes could promote greater information sharing in the real world, which would translate back to increased activity on Facebook, then the solution would be heralded as a valuable one for all.

Beyond the use of QR code creation for personal profiles, the feature could prove to be extremely worthwhile to brands and businesses. QR codes have long been held as a transformative technology; a means to connect the digital and physical through one’s mobile phone. There are a wealth of branding and marketing initiatives that would be enhanced by the broad adoption of QR code creation and usage on Facebook.

QR codes represent a promising technological step in our digital and mobile futures. Their limitations, however, could prove too insurmountable to get past. There exists a prominent gap between QR code potential and education around the technology. The technology solution is limited by the need to have a complementary QR reader to access the information embedded within the 2D codes. If a QR code is the door then a reader is the key. Without having the necessary reader on one’s phone, a QR code is rendered useless. It becomes nothing more than a visual abstraction.

If Facebook were to really get involved in the QR code space, it would be a promising development. Facebook’s size and sheer market dominance could bring QR codes into the mainstream. It would seemingly be a foregone conclusion that Facebook would take an active role in fostering QR code adoption and the use of reader applications. If Facebook were to integrate QR code functionality into its existing mobile applications, the social network could have an enormous impact on the future of QR code technology. Facebook’s reach would guarantee that QR code readers would garner mainstream adoption.

What do you think? Is Facebook going to bring QR codes into the mainstream?

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