Direct access to mobile web content sans URIs

~ 06 September 2006 ~

Anyone who has accessed web content on a mobile device — which is likely all of you — knows of its limitations. Markup inconsistency, small screens, difficulty of data input, and so on.

However, technological advancements continue to push the envelope to discover new ways of making the mobile browsing experience more relevant and even pleasurable.

One of these might be ShotCode, a lightweight app that turns your phone’s camera into a web address entry tool. Entering a URI on a mobile device can sometimes be a nasty game of multi-tap, SMS messaging, and directory sifting. ShotCode aims to circumvent all of that by facilitating not only URI entry but also targeted content delivery.

On that note, watch the video below for a quick demonstration. Alternately, you can view the same video at YouTube. You’d typically use the codes in printed material, but they also work well enough on screen to test it out. (Note: Web content was cached — it doesn’t normally pull up that quickly.)

Any downsides? Of course. Users must have the app installed on their phone (which may or may not be compatible), and content producers must insert the codes into their printed material, among other things. Further, the technology isn’t really all that new. Similar products, such as Mobot, have been around for a couple years now.

All things considered, anything that attempts to make the mobile web experience more readily accessible is a big plus in my book.



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1   Dean ~ 06 September 2006 at 10:54 AM

Reminds me of the “Cue Cat” Remember that? I got one in the mail for being a Wired subscriber way-back-when. The idea was for magazine ads to print codes that would be scanned and take the user to the website. The scanner was a silly hand-held device. It was a huge failure. Mine sat in the box until its trip to the trash can.

2   Shawn McCollum ~ 06 September 2006 at 12:56 PM

QRcodes are pretty heavily used in japan from what i’ve read. and china is getting them soon,

There are a number of different companies doing this like shotcode, beetagg, and then upcode in finland and colorcodes in korea. The selling point is that they provide tracking of some sort like feedburner does for rss.

I think using an open standard like qrcodes coupled with a service like tinyurl for tracking is a better idea then custom codes like this that just smell like cuecat.

3   Sean Maddden ~ 06 September 2006 at 06:21 PM

Area/Code did something similar for a big game called ConQwest where they used semacodes to digitally “take” territory by snapping photos of them in the world and uploading them to the server. According to them, they created so much network traffic they took down Verizon’s west coast grid.

This sort of ubiquity could be really useful (imagine being able to program your dvr from the world by taking a snap of a code on a Sopranos billboard and txting your home machine). Shotcode’s service is very narrow and has the feeling of babysteps (especially since it isn’t network reliant). I’m looking forward to what can be done with such technology once people get used to using their cameras as input devices.

4   Merc ~ 06 September 2006 at 08:29 PM

Very cool concept. However, it makes me wonder why there is not more investment into standard OCR for phones. The syntax for a URI is straight forward and so is the syntax for phone numbers. I would like to see something like: select scan from phone menu, select data type (web or phone), scan the data, and be presented with option to save or use the data immediately.

5   Brian Fling ~ 06 September 2006 at 09:22 PM

Semacode ( in the US is the analog of QR codes in Japan (2D barcodes) and can contain a lot of data from a web URL to an address book entry.

Check out the Semapedia project ( plus there have been some cool uses as self guided historical guides as well.

Same downsides as Cameron lists above you need to install the app on your phone, but the application, SDK and ability to create the codes is free to all.

From the marketers perspective services like Mobot that recognize and subway or bus ad seem to get a little more attention in the States, but pickup any Japanese magazine and QR codes are ubiquitous.

Although outside of Japan WAP-push, which is sending a URL from a SMS-based request, has tended to win out over these technologies for most URL delivery.

6   James John Malcolm (AkaXakA) ~ 07 September 2006 at 09:41 AM

“Anyone who has accessed web content on a mobile device — which is likely all of you — knows of its limitations.”

Actually, nope.

I did have a friend do it for me on his phone just the other day…

7   Cameron Moll ~ 07 September 2006 at 12:00 PM

Merc - True. No sense why a phone couldn’t recognize plain text too (e.g. anything with http:// in front of it), rather than just cryptic codes.

Brian - Great insight, as usual.

8   Webmaster ~ 11 September 2006 at 12:03 AM

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9   Aaron ~ 11 September 2006 at 01:48 AM

There’s a good project that tries to make that thing easier here in switzerland: it’s called BeeTaag and the project website is at:


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