A few months ago, a member of the 60 Second Marketer community started a discussion on our LinkedIn group that asked, “I am curious about everyone’s thoughts on Microsoft Tags vs. QR Codes.”

You can join that discussion by clicking the link above. In the meantime, you might also enjoy our analysis of the comments and information we received about the Microsoft Tag vs. QR Code debate. (Some very level-headed information was kindly provided by Nick Martin, the Online Community Manager at Microsoft Tag.)

Here’s our report, written by Nicole Hall at Mobilize Worldwide.

While these two codes both fall into the category of a 2D code, many people have differing opinions on which will win out to become the most widely accepted technology. So what is the fuss really all about?

We took a look at the 5 factors most commonly discussed in the debate to help you decide which code is best for your business.

Open vs. Closed Source: One of the biggest differences between the codes is whether they are open or closed sources.  QR codes are open source, meaning they can be created by many companies, and each company’s code reader should be able to read every other company’s QR codes. Meanwhile, Microsoft Tag’s technology is closed, meaning you can only create and scan Microsoft Tags using Microsoft’s platform. While some believe the open nature of QR codes will help them gain traction and become more widespread in the market place, others argue that by controlling the entire scanning process, Microsoft will be better able to assure quality, and thus rise to the top.

Adoption Rates: Though QR code companies and Microsoft are both extremely tight lipped about their numbers except to say that they are experiencing extreme growth, many 3rd parties have speculated about each code’s share of the market. According to Nellymoser, who is a partner of Microsoft Tag, Tag has an overwhelming presence in the print publications industry, with campaigns in publications such as Allure, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.

However, in most other areas QR codes seem to be dominating the space. In fact, Burson Marsteller recently reported that 22% of the Fortune 50 companies are using QR to promote their business. Companies using QR codes include retailers such as Walmart, manufacturers like Ford Motors and entertainment companies such as HBO, to name a few.  Additionally, ScanLife QR code readers are preloaded on to many Android devices, increasing the adoption rate amongst these owners. Microsoft Tags are not preloaded on any devices, despite the fact that Windows Phones are also a Microsoft product.

Scanability: Scanability is one of the hottest topics in the debate over codes, but unfortunately there is no definitive evidence one way or the other.  While Microsoft has put out research indicating their codes are successfully read up to twice as often as QR codes, 3rd party research is not available to back up these claims. Anecdotal evidence however, indicates that the codes tend to be fairly evenly matched, but that QR codes scanability can be hampered depending on what codes and code readers are being used.

Customizability:  One of Microsoft’s initial selling points was that, unlike QR codes, they could incorporate colors and custom logos into their tags. But now QR codes are catching up on this front. The codes can operate successfully with a 30% margin of error, meaning designers have been able to get creative with graphics and logos. Microsoft Tags can also include your logo, but typically work by layering a field of dots over a picture, as opposed to actually incorporating it into the design. This makes it easy to create a custom code without a graphic designer, but many argue it does not look as sleek. Check out some examples below and decide for yourself. And, for more cool QR codes, check out Mashable’s article.

Cost: It is completely free to create Microsoft Tags and to download their reader. Additionally, their metrics, which include the frequency, time frame, and geography of all scans, come free of charge. Microsoft has guaranteed that all of their services will remain free until at least 2015, and they will give 2 years notice before charging for any service, so a price hike is not a concern for their users. This cost structure differs slightly from most QR code companies which do not charge to create or scan codes, but often do charge a “premium” rate to achieve similar metrics.

While there are some definite differences between the two codes, much of their popularity will come down to individual preference. Regardless of which code wins out, the continuing adoption of one or both of these codes is a definite win for mobile marketers.

Posted by Nicole Hall, Account Manager with Mobilize Worldwide. Mobilize Worldwide develops mobile apps, mobile ad campaigns, mobile websites and just about anything else related to mobile marketing for brands interested in growing their sales and revenue using this new and emerging medium.