mstagMicrosoft’s Tag barcode service will shut down in two years, according to a notice issued by the company this morning.

The company hasn’t explained the reason for the move, but the decision raises questions about the long-term viability of barcodes as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds, with wireless technologies such as NFC working more seamlessly to provide that link.

Microsoft Tags, originally unveiled in 2009, are patterned, color barcodes that were used by advertisers in magazines — letting readers scan a code with their phones to find out more information about a particular ad or product.

Under the Microsoft Tag phase-out, the service will continue running as is until Aug. 19, 2015. Microsoft says it has licensed the technology to Scanbuy, operator of the ScanLife service, to continue supporting Microsoft Tags for existing customers.



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  • Guest

    Your title could have just said “RIP, Microsoft”.

  • Christopher Budd

    I’d totally forgotten about these. I’m surprised they’re keeping it up and running that long.

    Mind you I think it’s just a failed technology across the board, regardless of a particular implementation. I don’t know anyone that uses QR Codes. And if anything the Microsoft Tags were slightly less ugly than QR Codes.

    Here’s hoping that these are the last of the CueCat’s nine lives: That’s really what these are.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Irony of the day: on the Tag blog, post from March on The Rise and Fall of CueCat: “Why an early QR code [sic] scanning technology failed miserably and lost investors millions.” Unfortunately, the post doesn’t actually explain why CueCat failed nor how Microsoft could have avoided the same fate.

    My theory: MS Tag depends on a central authority to hold the tags. Without that service, the tag is useless. CueCat had the same problem. QR codes have no such dependency. (Although they’re not all that successful either.)

  • H.a.w.k P.h.i.l

    I saw these in the mall, high banner near ceiling. I pulled my phone and tried to scan it –> didn’t work. The technology is the big flaw. I email MS staffs and got on forum, no answer. They already killed it in 2010 I assumed.

  • Guest

    As much as I liked Tag, QR codes have really won the day. I usually scan 10-20 of them on a daily basis, often to “like” something on Face or to buy tix. In fact, I’ve even programmed my phone to generate QRs so that I can attend events and board aeroplanes.

    Kudos to Microsoft for identifying areas of growth and for reprioritising. A skillful pivot has benefited many a comp.

  • Thiago

    Had to happen eventually. I’m pretty sure they don’t see much use now, anyway. If they do, they’re probably centralized in really specific markets and people that were around when the Tags started. Thiago |

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