Rebecca Sentance at ClickZ has an intriguing column up wondering if the time isn’t right for a comeback for QR codes. She points to a number of technical changes that finally incorporate QR code reading as native functionality, which was something that was remarkably missing several years ago when the format seemed poised for taking off the first time. That comes just as Venmo, the popular peer payment app, introduces them for people’s profiles.

It’s entirely possible – probably I’d even say – that QR codes are done in the U.S. market. Even as Apple and Google make it easier for them to be scanned, their moment may be over. If there’d been a better user experience in 2009, maybe it would have caught on. But not only was there no education campaign to explain to people what those codes were and what they could do with them, the value proposition wasn’t strong. Most times the result of scanning one was just a visit to a microsite that wasn’t optimized for mobile devices. And the presence of competing formats, the general QR code and Microsoft’s Tag codes, only muddied the waters further.

The spirit of QR codes lives on, though. Spotify Codes, Snapcodes, Shazam symbols and others all picked up where QR codes left off by simplifying the user experience to a one-code-one-app system. When you see the Spotify symbol next to a code you know just what to do with it. And Snapcodes are so pervasive and easily understood60-year-old politicians use them as their Twitter avatars. More than that, the result of doing so is crystal clear to the user, which increases comfort levels and aids adoption.

Making information instantly available via a quick mobile-centric experience makes a lot of sense. It’s just QR codes wasn’t what was going to get us there. They will still appear on the occasional flyer or pamphlet or product, but I’d be shocked if there’s a big push for them to catch on at this point. They’re too much a punchline right now. But the idea lives on in various ways that are much more appealing to the average user because their utility is apparent and immediate.

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