snapchat-logoYears ago Google introduced a tool that allows publishers the ability to easily create a QR code for any page and add that code to any other page. This was right at the beginning of the mobile web, so someone could scan that QR code from the desktop web and be taken to the page on their phone, where it could be bookmarked and saved for later. It wasn’t the fanciest or most intuitive or useful tool but at the time QR codes were seen as the hot new technology, the key to unlocking that nascent mobile experience.

Now Snapchat is back with a new version on this idea with a tool, announced yesterday, that allows publishers to create a Snapcode (Snap’s proprietary version of QR codes) for any page that can then be downloaded as an image and shared on any page, within a social network update or added to print media. As the story states, tracking codes appended to those links are essential for publishers since it will let them see what kind of traffic results from their usage. And there are various metrics available on scanning behavior that will help them see how it’s being adopted.

I’ve long maintained that QR codes didn’t catch on mostly for the same reason RSS never really hit the mainstream, because there wasn’t the education for the general public on how to actually use them. So everyone has seen those weird little boxes of black pixels and everyone has seen the orange box with the signal waves radiating out, but while they may know that that’s a QR code or RSS feed, how to actually use it isn’t clear.

Snapcodes are essentially the same thing as QR codes: Take a picture of a strange little image and it unlocks something, be it a webpage or other content. But it’s easier to use because people know exactly what app is needed to do that unlocking, whereas that question was never clear for QR codes. So many people in my experience gave up on them after sitting there pointing their camera at them and getting nothing, not knowing there was a special app that was needed. The downside here is that Snapcodes are a proprietary tool, not the result of an open standard. So it’s acclimated people to the idea but in a way that benefits only itself, not the larger ecosystem.

Still, it’s an interesting update that publishers should evaluate to see if it holds potential value for their programs. It’s easy to see how this could be adopted by marketers of all stripes and used in print, outdoor and other advertising as they seek to drive traffic to a page for more information or some kind of conversion, be it sales or sign-up. Evaluate and proceed as you see fit.