Google Places puts QR Codes on the shelf
NFC is the way of the future
Google has become a Principal Member of the NFC Forum, just as Google Places drops support for the lower-tech, but cheaper to implement, QR Codes that do much the same thing.
QR Codes are 2D bar codes designed to be scanned with a phone's camera and take the user to a specific URL, but despite mailing them out to 100,000 US businesses only 14 months ago, the search giant has now apparently stopped supporting them entirely in Google Places, and claims to be searching for an alternative – though Near Field Communications seems the obvious choice.
Google has, as it happens, just upped its membership of the NFC Forum to the $25,000-a-year "Principal" ranking, though it's still not at the "Sponsor" level, which costs twice that. NFC is often used for proximity payments, but the technology can also fulfill the functionality of a bar (or QR) code with greater ease of use, though at the cost of greater expense: an NFC tag will set you back around 12 pence, compared to the minimal cost of printing a code.
But it seems that price isn't a problem for Google, which started mailing out NFC-enabled stickers to businesses in Portland, Oregon, last December. That was part of the Chocolate Factory's promotion of its Hotpot, and enabled those customers equipped with a Nexus S handset to visit a business's Google Places page with a wave of the phone.
Now New York web developer Blumenthals reports that QR Codes have vanished from the Google Places dashboard, and managed to get a statement out of Google explaining that the company has given up on QR codes in the context of Google Places, and is "exploring new ways to enable customers to quickly and easily find information about local businesses from their mobile phones".
We've contacted Google for confirmation of that standpoint, but have yet to hear from them.
The problem with QR Codes isn't that they are hard to use, but that mobile search has become so easy as to make it appear so. Here at El Reg we carefully put QR Codes on our Android app reviews, but in fact its easier to run the Android Marketplace and type a few letters of the application name. The same applies to shops and businesses; Google can find a business with surprising speed from the name, while snapping a QR Code can take a surprisingly long time.
That's not stopped them appearing on everything from rubbish trucks to kumquats, and the QR Code is far from dead, but when it comes to identifying businesses the name is sufficient, and NFC is easier.
For the nostalgic, here's a video showing how Google thought the future would be back in the heady days of 2009, when everyone was going to have a QR Code in the window:
Yes I know...
... but I'm against NFC in general. Full stop. Dangerous is what it is. We hates it, my precious. We hates it.
More expensive = more margin = ...
= more profit for firms investing in the technology. Wonder how much Google has invested in NFC (the tech as well as in other firms).
The marketplace is easy to search?
"Here at El Reg we carefully put QR Codes on our Android app reviews, but in fact its easier to run the Android Marketplace and type a few letters of the application name. The same applies to shops and businesses; Google can find a business with surprising speed from the name, while snapping a QR Code can take a surprisingly long time."
I'm happy to agree that the Google search engine is impressively good at finding matches for business names, but I'm not convinced the same is true of the marketplace; it appears to have very loose matching rules and (as per Yell.com but unlike Google's search engine) presents the search results in a randomly shuffled order, so as to give all apps a fair chance.
TBH, I think NFC and QR codes are two separate systems and should be treated as such; you can't store a huge amount of data in a QR code (though you can link to it), but you can't access a NFC from ten meters away, neither can you print out NFC codes in a magazine nor email them to a friend.
I think the biggest problem is that there isn't a standard QR app for Android/iPhone; not only do you have to download one separately (e.g. Barcode Scanner) but it also limits the level of integration with the OS. Admittedly, most of them simply resolve into a URL which you can then launch in the browser, but I'm sure you could do more interesting stuff, such as the Augmented Reality stuff in the 3DS (e.g. have a new URL format such as augrel://this.is.where.you.download.the.data - your phone could then download the game/info associated with the QR and do it's funky stuff, such as overlaying street signs or cute fluffy bunnies)...