Barcodes: Really clever or really dumb?

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
David St. Hubbins, This is Spinal Tap

Google is apparently experimenting with tiny barcodes that will sit next to newspaper advertisements and be scannable by mobile phone, so that you can “read” the code and be whisked to some website where you can get an interactive coupon, a special deal on Star Wars memorabilia, etc. Apparently I’m not the only one who immediately had visions of the CueCat, an ungainly handheld scanner gizmo that some ridiculous company tried to foist on newspaper readers back in the first bubble.

In the comments on a Silicon Alley Insider post about the Google experiment, Henry Blodget says that CueCat was the single worst idea he ever heard during Bubble 1.0 — and that’s saying a lot. I would have to agree (Allen Stern of Centernetworks, however, says that he thought it was a pretty good idea, and still has one in his closet). If you want some technical information, there’s some at the Google FAQ.

I know that there are a lot of people who are going to point out that they use barcodes like this all the time to buy things in Japan, but I would like to point out that not everything that is popular in Japan is good, and in support of that I would offer this and most of these.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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