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Web Services as an Alternative to Copy-Protected Software

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Microsoft Tag is an advanced barcode technology. Unlike traditional UPC and ISBN barcodes, which only store numbers, Tag barcodes can store text, URLs, phone numbers, and even virtual identification card. Tag barcodes, while normally open, can even be password protected.

Microsoft envisions their tag technology finding its way onto magazines, posters, consumer products, business cards, and anything else that could be conceivable photographed by a web-enabled mobile phone. While tags normally appear as random patterns of triangles in a 0.75 inches square, the barcode can be overlaid on an image to make them more visually appealing. With a bit of skill, the barcode can disappear entirely.

Currently Microsoft does not make money of the Tag technology itself, though it does reserve the right to charge for commercial uses in the future. Currently it is being freely offered in the hopes of promoting Microsoft’s marketing and advertising services.

In order to create Tag-style barcodes, people have to either use the Microsoft Tag website or their API. Presumably to keep it a trade secret and protect future revenue models, Microsoft isn’t letting the algorithms to generate the barcodes out the door. The Tag API is only available a web service. While this would theoretically make it possible to use the API on non-Windows platforms, it also means it will not work on devices without reliable Internet access.

While this certainly could be a one-time occurrence to support an unusual business model, we may see more of this in the future. While the pressure for all code to be open sourced continues to mount, commercial software companies may see this as a way to make money on their products while entirely side-stepping the debate.

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