back to article Microsoft announces execution date for failed QR code-killer

Microsoft Tag, Redmond's alternative to the QR Code which never took off, is scheduled to die on 19 August, 2015, following Old Yeller out behind the cowshed. Launched just over three years ago, the Microsoft Tag is a proprietary version of a QR Code with some additional functionality and better colours. As QR Codes resolutely …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it me

    or is the image link to the tag broken???

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Is it me

      It is not you… Though it is not exactly broken; it is just the source code displaying. It must have been HTML escaped by mistake.

    2. Another User

      Re: Is it me

      no, here it is broken as well. I am wondering if there exists a browser out there displaying the image or if the article was't reviewed.

      1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        Re: Is it me

        >>no, here it is broken as well. I am wondering if there exists a browser out there displaying the image or if the article was't reviewed.

        No and Yes

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NFC does make more sense

    Even under optimum light I've struggled to get Blackberrys, iPhones and Window Phones to recognise QR.

    Perhaps, it's just me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NFC does make more sense

      Yeah, that's my experience as well. I've had two or three phones which can do QR, but they don't really work. Reading station had a poster up with a QR for each of the timetables for the lines which go through it, I thought it was a pretty good idea, but I couldn't get a single one to work. In the end I just asked the guy at the information desk for a timetables, which he handed right over.

      1. sorry, what?

        Re: NFC does make more sense

        I've rarely had trouble with QR code scanning using the ZXing barcode app on Android on an antique HTC Desire. Use of NFC is far more elitist because of the need for a newer device (or one of those funky batteries that includes the NFC magic).

        Long live the QR code. Microsoft's tag thing, meh.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: NFC does make more sense

        It's really simple though. All you need to do is go to

        Print out the pdf

        Install the Google Goggles App -

        Or whatever the equivalent is for your phone's operating system

        Carefully cut out the code for the time table you want, for example if you want to go to London, it is timetable number 7

        Open Google Goggles, and scan the QR code, making sure your phone doesn't see any of the other codes before it gets to the one you want to scan

        Tap on the link to open the website

        Tap on on the link to download the pdf

        Select which app you want to open it in, eg Adobe Reader

        Scroll down the pdf until you find the train you want

        What could be easier?

        Well, maybe you could install

        and tell it where you want to go. There are other apps. is better if you are travelling within the London travel card area, but otherwise Railteam seems to be the best.

    2. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: NFC does make more sense

      "Even under optimum light I've struggled to get Blackberrys, iPhones and Window Phones to recognise QR."

      You must be holding it wrong. I have had no problems reading QR codes with my current phone (a relatively cheap LG) or its predecessor, a Nokia E51 (Symbian and not even a smartphone).

      QR codes have some significant advantages over NFC:

      QR codes can be generated for free and displayed on a screen or printed. They can be photocopied. No special hardware is required to produce a QR code.

      It is possible to read a QR code from some distance with almost any phone or tablet (if the QR code is suitably sized)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NFC does make more sense

        Plus NFC is authorised to make all sorts of changes to your phone settings on Android. Which is great for personal use, but bad for randomly scanning a tag wondering what it does.

      2. Getriebe

        Re: NFC does make more sense

        Never had a problem readinng on my WP8 Lumia and also getting them read by Chilter Rail as a ticket. I have requested they move to NFC so I can catch the 17:15 to Warwick without even stopping as I run through the gate.

      3. crayon

        Re: NFC does make more sense

        @ JohnG "a Nokia E51 (Symbian and not even a smartphone)."

        Another idiot who thinks apple invented the smartphone?

    3. Steve Evans

      Re: NFC does make more sense

      I think it might be you... I've never had a problem on the three phones I've tried it with, but then those 3 phones were all Android, and Android is rather noticeable by its absence in your list.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NFC does make more sense

      QR works fine for me. Microsoft's problem was using colour, that's just never going to take off when mono laser label printers are so common.

  3. Paul Leigh


    "the vast majority of smart phones have the requisite circuitry these days" (NFC)

    No they don't, it's just a relatively small handful that do and the users hardware changeover holds back the uptake. whereas an image based system can be deployed quickly as "the vast majority of smart phones have the requisite circuitry these days" (Cameras).

    I always felt that MS missed a trick here, the reliance on having a connection was problem at times and it often spoilt the usefuleness of the tag system. They could have had an app that snappe dthe image and stored for later pickup when the data connection was available.

    Shame it's going imho.

    1. Dave Fox

      Re: nfc?

      Have to agree - on what planet do the "vast majority" of smartphone possess NFC, because it isn't this one. Granted, I have 3 phones (Note 2, HTC One, and Nexus 4) that all do have NFC, but I'm the exception not the rule.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: nfc?

      Connection = tracking = analytics = advertising.

      You didn't expect MS to run the servers out of pure altruism, did you?

    3. rh587 Bronze badge

      Re: nfc?

      "Shame it's going imho."

      Really? I'm glad to see the back of it. We do a niche app for an industry's trade shows. 9/10 customers wanted a QR reader built in. 1/10 wanted an MS Tag reader. We haven't done that yet, and now we can legitimately tell them to just conform and use QR which is as close as you can get to a standard.

      Have to say I've never really had a problem reading QR codes (QR Code Scanner PRO for Blackberry), and nor did the people scanning our polo shirts at the last such event.

      Face it, Tag is just a PITA. Every different tag system requires the user to have the right app on their phone to scan that particular. QR is the de facto standard, some phones come with a QR scanner pre-loaded. An MS Tag scanner? Not so much...

      If you think you might want to change where the QR code directs to (MS Tag's one selling point) then point it at a dedicated HTML page and do a redirect to whatever PDF, vCard, email address or web address you actually want it to go to this week.

      The only issue I've had is when I was handed a flyer for a competition at a neighbouring sports club. Entry forms could be downloaded via the QR code on the flyer.

      Nice idea, but there were three problems with this:

      1. No URL was provided for those without a smartphone.

      2. The left hand control square of the tag had been cut off by the printer, so it didn't scan.

      3. It would have made more sense to just print the entry form on the back of the flyer, then I don't have to download/print anything.

      That's not the fault of QR though, but that of the muppet who did the flyer.

      And as for NFC. Really? No. Give it a few years but something camera based is far preferable for the vast majority right now.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Cliff

    Shame, but inevitable

    It was actually funky technology as you could have coloured dots, or any shape, or nest of squiggles, all scanned fine. This meant a cunning graphic designer could have real fun with it and build it into the branding. They also had a higher data density by being colour.

    As the code was scanned and the event recorded centrally online it meant you could integrate with something along the lines of IFTTT, not just for your own scans but for all users.

    Of course, the fact that they never took off, required always on connectivity to work, and the existing smartphone apps didn't implement the encoding leading to another app just for these tags left it dead.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Shame, but inevitable

      If you want funky looking patterns, do a Google Image search for "QR code art". I'm amazed and pleased that they seem to work fine.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Shame, but inevitable

      Black and white just works - you can tell when its printed badly as its looks bad. Colour will look 'good' even if screwed up enough to completely change the code.

      And oh the fun you could have round the shops with some felt tip pens!!!!

      It was always toxic.

    3. Cliff

      Re: Shame, but inevitable

      Oh look 2 downvotes. Puzzling. Commentards are an unpredictable lot, anyone would think I was screaming to kill QR codes or that monochrome barcode users mothers worked the streets. Of course I did neither.

      I said it had some interesting features, colour was a possibility. The colour palette used is CMYK, so printing is native. Mono is also an option, and it had a pretty decent data density for that as well.

      QR Art often seems to defy the tech specs for QR codes (colours, shapes, contrast, etc so it's up to the scanners tolerances). I've seen companies sometimes inserting dummy data to make a bigger code then overwriting those unused bits with logos. It's cheeky but seems to work :-)

    4. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cliff


      You mean like this?

      I had been looking at how to integrate images with QR like codes for a while. Kind of had the idea for it. Never knew Tag actually supported it (while QR does not really). Strange it did not take off IMO. A little tweak here or there and it could allow for discreet tagging easily IMO.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Cliff

        PS, turns out the end results are not as good as I'd hoped. :(

  6. Magnus_Pym

    Microsoft tax?

    Anyone know how the financial model worked? Did the usual model of of 'pay Microsoft for the thing and pay Microsoft forever more for the use of the thing' apply? Is that what killed it off?

    Along with that fact that it was sellers who wanted the technology and not users obviously.

  7. Robert Ramsay


    ...for reminding me of Old Yeller...


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks...


      You're welcome.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Oh for the days when a proprietary MS solution guaranteed instant market dominance.


    No doubt a generation of graphic designers will raise their iWhatevers in salute at such a noble but doomed enterprise.

    Like I cared.

  9. Number6

    Not quite as ambitious as when they were trying to push MSN as the replacement for the internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even less ambitious than trying to push Bing as a replacement for Google

  10. Lee Taylor

    Oh dear Northern Fail will have to reprint all their station time tables, did anyone else ever use the MS tags???

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Timetables are actually an example of something where QR codes are actually useful. It's amazing they messed it up so badly.

    2. earlyjester

      I think Johnsons baby wipes did or do ..

  11. Scott Broukell


    Is it me, or, does the Microsoft thingy look a bit like the old navy 'dazzle' camouflage from many years ago !?

  12. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Move along, please. Nothing to see here.

    Just a PR stunt of a cartoon (monkey?) boy going under a bus.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    QR Codes fail to go mainstream?

    "As QR Codes resolutely fail to go mainstream"

    Possibly because the only use for QR codes seems to be on advertising to link to a website of more advertising.

    Therefore, a little code that started off life as a parts tracker for Toyota is now associated with endless advertising.

  14. A K Stiles

    Use of QR Codes

    Something you can print with a standard printer, that you could run off a hundred copies using the office photocopier (assuming it didn't do some failed pattern recognition substitution!), or some circuitry required to be applied to every copy you make... I don't see QR codes vanishing overnight in favour of NFC.

    The one thing that has disappointed me with QR codes is that I've only ever seen them used for URL links to more information, rather than actually putting some useful information into the QR code itself - it just seems like a missed opportunity.

    1. Colin Miller

      Re: Use of QR Codes

      Although in theory QR codes can have upto 3000 bytes in them, the standard ones you see are limited to 50 characters, enough for a redirect URL on your website.

      The 3000 byte versions have very high dot density, and I doubt if they'd scan correctly in anything but the most optimal conditions.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: Use of QR Codes

      I've seen them used to store wifi credentials - just the ESSID/PSK pair, stored in QR code form and supplied on a card with an ISP configured ADSL router.

      My android phone was able to recognise and use the information without issue. Faster than typing in the key.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    why would anyone want to use these things?

    You don't know what the URL is so you might end up at some child porn site when you wanted to go to <wherever>. Just opening the link could lead to jail time. so once again, Why take the risk?

    What is the key selling point of these things?

    I'm of the same opinion about tinyurl's.

  16. cs94njw

    What's puzzled me, is if they are as popular and useful as everyone suggests, why isn't it standard functionality in every mobile's camera app?

    Why do people have to download an app to read them?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Royalties and phone companies skimping on costs/profits?

  17. Mage Silver badge

    The way it's implemented even QR is toxic

    Why don't phones display the URL and ask if you want to load it?

    Otherwise it's a way to deliver drive by malicious URLS.

    The real QR is easily replaced by a sticker. But Colour was stupid. Less ubiquitous to high speed print unique codes for offices.

    1. D@v3

      Re: Why don't phones display the URL..?

      NeoReader for iOS does.

      After scanning opens a screen with fields for 'title' (usually empty) and 'content' (usually a URL), and the options to Open, Share or Copy to clipboard.

      The problem is, the URL is often a tinyurl or similar, so although you can see it, you don't necessarily know where it is going to take you.

  18. itzman

    What a difference a comma makes

    Microsoft Tag, Redmond's alternative to the QR Code which never took off.....

    Microsoft Tag, Redmond's alternative to the QR Code, which never took off.....

  19. DrAJS

    Love QRs

    I do occasion wedding photography. Before the big day I set up a holding page on my website and then print a load of business cards with the QR code to the holding page on the back. The guests pick up a business card scan the code and can see all the pictures as they are uploaded. Works a treat.

    I am also trying get the budget to upgrade the asset management system at work so each bit of kit has a QR code on it that links into the asset tag page for that asset. That way when an engineer goes to a machine to do an upgrade he can enter the new details there and then. I've done a proof of concept that worked really well.

    Never had any trouble reading them on Note2, Atrix or even a San Francisco (which had a camera almost as bad as the ones they put in Blackberrys)... but that wouldn't stop someone misusing the concept by encoding a broken link or misprinting it!

  20. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Microsoft Tag?

    What? Never heard of it until today.

  21. Jim Birch

    MS tags make better psychometric tests.

  22. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    It links through Microsoft's cloud servers, which means they all have expiration dates, lease agreements, and a price tag. Do not want.

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