QR codes have slowly been gaining traction among advertisers and publishers in the U.S., but they may finally be about to break through to the consumer conscious — Facebook appears to be testing QR codes on its profile pages.

According to TechCrunch:

“We’ve gotten a number of tips in our inbox in the past 10 minutes so
it’s safe to assume it’s not a hoax or anything: Facebook appears to
have started enabling users to generate custom two-dimensional QR codes.

From the looks of the screenshot embedded above, there are two types
of QR codes: a personal barcode or a “status QR barcode”. This also
seems to appear on Facebook Fan Pages.”

Neither of those implementations are particularly revolutionary. Basically, if Facebook rolls this out for all users, it will enable people (and brands) to place links to their Facebook pages in the real world. When a smartphone user links over the code, they’ll be directly to a Facebook profile.

LostRemote has documented some of the varied uses that could take off:

“I can already see it now: QR code bumper stickers tied to users’ FB
profiles, QR code t-shirts, stickers, and other physical embodiments of
their digital selves. Transporting one’s Facebook profile into the real
world via 2D barcodes, could trigger social connections beyond the
confines of the digital space. QR codes could succeed in letting
people’s Facebook identities live in the real world.”

But the real issue here is that it will expose the average consumer to the notion of QR codes. Brands have been using QR codes for awhile, but most consumers still don’t know what they are.

Even at SxSW this year, many of the techies gathered in Austin didn’t know what to do with them. The event organizers put QR codes on all of the attendees’ badges. But for the most part, they went unscanned. In that case, there was a usability issue. From CNET:

“While a terrific concept in principle and clearly meant with the best
of intentions, it seems that many people either aren’t using the QR
code system, don’t understand it, or have abandoned it after an initial
attempt, often because they are first taken to a mobile URL asking for
their my.sxsw login information, a stumbling block that for those who
made it past this step is not repeated on subsequent uses.”

If Facebook gets the implementation right and makes it easy for Facebookers to use, this could be a huge step for QR code adoption. As Hitwise announced today, Facebook is now the most popular website in the U.S.

If a site like that started getting users in the habit of using QR codes, then they could start using them in many other places. Of course, there is the barrier of visuals. Unless explained by surrounding text or images, there is no way to know where a QR code will take you until you scan it. If Facebook started giving out little branded QR codes and stickers to its users, they may finally get the wider acceptance that many brand marketers have been hoping for.

Of course there’s the fact that most Facebook users don’t have smartphones. Meaning that it could still be awhile until they start paying attention to these weird little boxes that keep popping up everywhere.

Image: TechCrunch