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min read

What is a QR code and how does it work?

Published on
April 18, 2023

Jules Winckers

Marketing Maestro

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Introduction on QR codes

The QR code has been around for many years. Yet it is only recently that you often see this QR code in everyday life. The corona crisis has accelerated the use of QR codes.

For many people, the corona QR code was still an unknown phenomenon. And still not everyone knows exactly what a QR code is or what you can do with it. In this blog, we explain it to you. Furthermore, we answer the question whether QR codes are dangerous or not.

Origin of the QR code

The acronym QR code stands for "Quick Response code" and was coined in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave. It was developed to be quickly decodable. Initially to quickly identify car parts. Yet the QR code was soon used for other purposes. In Japan, for instance, it appeared in magazines, bus stops and on business cards.

The early use of mobile phones with cameras and the internet in Japan allowed the QR code to be used more and more here. This eventually gave rise to the idea of using the QR code to provide URLs.

How does a QR code work

In fact, a QR code is nothing more than a square made up of rows and columns of squares. These are black and white squares that contain digital information.

In reality, it is not much different from a barcode, except that you can put a lot more information in a QR code.

The most common form of information stored in a QR code is a URL. But you can also put other forms of information in it. Some examples are:

  • Email addresses
  • Contact information
  • Calendar appointments
  • Geolocations
  • Text messages
  • Telephone numbers
  • Texts with up to 7089 characters
  • Yet you will encounter this kind of information much less often behind a QR code than a URL.

    But how exactly does a QR code work? First of all, the URL is encoded into a QR code. This is then placed wherever you like. This could be in a magazine, on a poster, product packaging or simply on a website. The user then points the camera of his or her phone at the code. The QR code is converted to a URL by a reader in the phone and then the website URL is displayed. The advantage of this is that you no longer have to retype the entire URL on your phone.

    Is a QR code dangerous?

    As with many other things to do with the internet, QR codes in themselves are not dangerous. The danger lies in how they are handled. As the QR code is increasingly used, there are also more reports of phishing using QR codes. Still, it is important to know that if you are careful yourself, the risk remains minimal. Read the URL carefully. If you do not trust it, do not open the URL. Also, if a QR code leads you to a website you don't quite trust, it is better to avoid it.

    In general, QR codes themselves are safe. As long as you pay attention and read what is on the screen, little can happen.

    What can you use the QR code for?

    Whereas the QR code began in 1994 as a means of quickly identifying car parts, today it is used in many different ways.

    Here are some applications of the QR code:


    QR codes are increasingly used in education to support teaching materials. Students find the codes in their textbooks and thus get quick access to online learning materials. Here, one should think of videos, informative websites or interactive teaching materials.

    Corona access certificate

    During the corona crisis, QR codes were widely used. Here, residents of certain countries were given a personal QR code. This could be scanned to see whether this person had been vaccinated, cured or tested negative.

    Hospitality and events

    In the hospitality industry, QR codes are used to view menus digitally. This eliminates the use of physical menus and even allows orders to be placed via smartphone. Entrance tickets for almost all parties and events now include a QR code. This allows the entrance ticket to be quickly scanned for validity.

    QR code menu

    Financial services

    Financial services use QR codes to send money easily. Almost every bank nowadays has an app for online banking. Online purchases can be paid quickly at checkout using QR codes. These lead consumers straight to the online banking app. Here, payment can be made quickly and securely. QR codes are also used for the latest application of the blockchain, crypto currencies. Here, they are mainly used to quickly transfer coins from one account to another.


    In advertising, QR codes are used to quickly direct people to a website or product page on a website. You also increasingly see branded QR codes on products. Behind these QR codes are several marketing expressions. These usually lead to the website, but also to special (win) promotions.

    QR code as a gateway to an interactive content experience

    At Intractive, we use QR codes to launch our interactive experiences. This way, the experience can be distributed anywhere. Also, the experience is easy to launch by anyone.

    Here is an example of a QR code leading interactive experience from The Lekker Company. Are you already on your phone just press this link.

    QR code experience The Lekker Company

    Curious about our interactive content experiences and what they can do for you? Just schedule a demo.

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