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Summary:

When Microsoft’s multi-colored Tag hit the scene it looked like a solid alternative to traditional barcodes because it was capable of providing much more information. Unfortunately, consumers never got used to the colored triangles of Tag.

Microsoft Tag

Microsoft is ending its Tag program on August 19, 2015, terminating a half-dozen year run at offering an alternative to traditional barcodes. The company announced the news on Monday and said that the Tag technology will be licensed to Scanbuy starting no later than September 18 of this year.

Why didn’t Tag catch on? Part of the answer to that question is actually another question: Do you know what Microsoft Tag is? Chances are, probably not. Here’s one I created online using Microsoft’s Tag creation tool:

GigaOM Tag

Tag was developed in 2007 and looks different from the traditional barcodes and QR codes that are more commonly seen these days. Tags could be monochrome but are often multi-colored because colors can help pack more data into the Tag. Microsoft says the colors, combined with triangles of different sizes and layouts, can yield up to 3,500 characters per square inch.

In addition to providing far more data than standard barcodes, companies that use Tag can gather information about the devices and people that scan Tags. In order for Tag to work, a mobile device reads the colored Tag using an app that then connects to Microsoft servers to translate the information into a web link or other item. Microsoft can then provide detailed analytics from the Tag.

That’s great for businesses, but consumers still tend to be wary about information gathering techniques. Ultimately, however, Tag never seemed to catch on because it’s simply not as recognizable as the barcodes that consumers have seen for decades. Perhaps Scanbuy will have more luck with Tag.

  1. From a developer perspective, Tag wasn’t attractive because Microsoft put its licensing hooks into the barcode. While it was free (for now at least), it wasn’t an open technology. The URL’s were linked back to a service that Microsoft controlled. It looked a bit too much like a fishhook to me.

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  2. roberto lewis Monday, August 19, 2013

    From a user perspective, I never got it to work when I needed it a few weekends at lowes checking out the plants’ tags. Way to go microsoft. If it wasn’t for this article, I wouldn’t have even known the name of that barcode.

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  3. I’d never heard of it.

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  4. Wow. Glad I didn’t decide to have a Tag put on my tombstone for future generations to read all about me …

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  5. What consumer actually scans barcodes or QR codes? These have always seemed great for businesses, but edge cases at best for consumers.

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  6. Mukesh Aggarwal Monday, August 19, 2013

    When I was writing an app few years back, I passed over MS Tag (even though it looked nicer than QR codes) simply because
    1) it required all data to be routed through MS server (so additional hop)
    2) Required data connection
    3) MS controlled the data

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