Goodbye Microsoft Tag, we hardly knew you (and that was the problem)

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.

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