Microsoft Tags are the next generation of QR code. The have more than an 80% share of the action code market in the publishing industry, according to the Nellymoser’s Action Code Usage Study in 2010.
Most Microsoft Tag action codes are easily recognizable by having multiple colored triangle shapes arranged in rows. However, black-and-white versions of the tag are used widely and the triangles can be replaced with dots.
The tags were originally designed to encode human DNA in a small space. While the original design was modified for commercial use, Microsoft Tags can contain much more information than a first generation QR code in the same amount of space. (Microsoft says that their tags use 25% of the printed space required for the same information as a QR code.) It also works in many conditions, such as low light conditions, where first generation QR codes may not produce accurate results.
Microsoft provides a free Tag Reader application for Android, BlackBerry, Apple iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and various phones that support Java. Smartphone users simply direct their phone to the gettag.mobi website to download the app. It is also available for free in the Android Market, Apple App Store, and other sites.
For publishers, advertisers, and consumer packaged goods companies, Microsoft Tag is free and provides more control and flexibility. This is because the Tag contains a reference to information that is contained in a database, not the information itself.
For example, instead of embedding a URL within a font, as QR codes do, the Microsoft Tag application looks up the URL information in a database. The most significant advantage of using this approach is that action code can be redirected to a different URL or turned off when requirements change. For example, if a Microsoft Tag is used to launch a contest URL, the URL can be changed when the contest is over without chaging the Tag. The smartphone user can be sent to a page that says informs the visitor that the contest is over. The new page could provide another offer. With a first generation QR code, unless the original web site is changed, the user may be sent to an expired contest or a dead link.
Microsoft further enhances the use of Tags with set of analytics that can be used by publishers and advertisers. Available reporting includes a heat map that shows where Tags are scanned.
Nellymoser has implemented many Microsoft Tag campaigns and often recommends the product to its clients.