It’s a debate that has raged on for quite a while in the world of technology: open source vs. proprietary. It’s no different for mobile marketing when it comes to 2D barcodes. There are those who like to trumpet that open source is better than proprietary. But when pressed for an answer as to why, it becomes apparent that many people don’t even really understand what the terms mean or how it could affect their mobile marketing plans.
Open source is a programming philosophy where all aspects of a program are open for review. The term usually refers to the source code of the program, but it can also refer to files created by the program that would be readable in other applications. Because open source is, well, open, programmers can identify weaknesses and fix them, but that same openness can be inviting for hackers who can exploit those weaknesses.
Proprietary technology, such as Microsoft Tag, has a source code that is only available to the developers and makes it much harder for hackers to mess with and thereby more secure for your information. It also means that a good system of robust technical support is available when you need it. Tag’s features such as API, Scanning SDK (Pirq and Lowe’s have both employed this feature into their apps) and Scan Data API gives developers the necessary tools to create a complete, user-friendly experience.
Open source can also lead to a problem with consistency that may affect the users’ experience. For example, QR is an open format so there are a lot of readers out there and most users are confused as to which app they should download. Most will just go to the app store and download the most popular one, which may or may not work with your QR campaign. The reader is an important element of the user experience.
When Tag’s own Brian Fleischer was recently asked about plans to include open standards for Tag during a briefing with the IDC he summed it up this way:
“The Tag format is controlled by Microsoft, similar to how the QR code format is controlled by Denso. I’m not sure that there is a huge distinction other than that Denso is not interested in pursuing their patent rights. Our system is triggered off the Tag format. We have a number of reasons why we think that’s compelling for brands and advertisers.”
Where do you side on the open vs. proprietary debate? Let us know with your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.