QR Code Examples: The 3 Versions Your Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

QR Code Examples: The 3 Versions Your Need to Know (2023)

QR Code Examples

Imagine you’re in a foreign land, unable to speak the language. Suddenly, you’re handed a magical lens. You point it at the strange symbols and, presto, they transform into familiar words and images. In the digital world, this magic is QR codes, transforming pixels into a whole new world of information.


A QR code is a type of barcode that can be read using a smartphone camera. It consists of black squares arranged on a white background, storing information such as a webpage URL, contact details, or text for easy and quick access.

Example 1: WeChat Pay and Alipay in China (2011). These mobile payment apps utilized QR codes to revolutionize the retail industry. Customers simply scan the code displayed by the retailer to make a payment, making transactions contactless and convenient.

Example 2: Snapcodes on Snapchat (2015). Snapchat introduced Snapcodes, personalized QR codes that users could scan to quickly add new friends, access content, or unlock filters and lenses. This made it fun and easy for users to connect and interact with the app.

Example 3: QR code menus in the COVID-19 pandemic (2020). With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants across the world adopted QR codes for menus. Customers scan the code at their table and view the menu on their smartphone, reducing physical contact and helping to keep both staff and customers safer.

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QR Code Examples In-Depth

WeChat Pay and Alipay in China (2011)

Imagine you’re exploring the lively streets of Shanghai, the city alive with a symphony of sounds, vibrant colors, and tantalizing smells wafting from the countless food stalls. You decide to buy some of those famous soup dumplings you’ve heard so much about. You reach for your wallet, but the vendor just shakes his head and points to a little, seemingly abstract square filled with pixels taped to his stall. This is your introduction to the world of WeChat Pay and Alipay, where cash is yesterday’s news and QR codes are the currency of today.

The year is 2011, and a new era in retail and commerce is dawning in China. The usual suspects, credit cards and cash, are quietly stepping aside to make way for a tech-savvy duo – WeChat Pay and Alipay. These mobile payment apps are armed with an exciting feature that will transform how payments are made – QR codes.

Just like a secret decoder ring, a smartphone camera deciphers the information hidden in the QR code. Upon scanning, it initiates an electronic payment directly from the customer’s WeChat Pay or Alipay account. The key lies in its simplicity and the fact that nearly everyone in China has a smartphone.

The impact on the retail industry is staggering. From bustling mega malls to tiny street vendors, QR codes begin to appear everywhere. Even buskers have QR codes laid out for digital tips. Transactions become contactless, quick, and incredibly convenient. Customers no longer need to carry bulky wallets or fret about loose change. It’s all about that little square filled with smaller squares.

This transformation goes beyond the ease of buying dumplings on a street corner. It empowers the unbanked and those without credit or debit cards to participate in the economy. As long as they have a smartphone – and in China, who doesn’t? – they can access financial services.

The QR code system also creates a wealth of data on consumer behavior, allowing businesses to tailor their offerings more accurately to customer preferences. This makes for a more personal, engaging shopping experience – another tick in the “pros” column.

Today, as you navigate the buzzing streets of China, you can’t help but marvel at how a simple, pixelated square, the QR code, has changed the way the world’s most populous nation buys and sells. The soup dumplings are just the beginning.

Snapcodes on Snapchat (2015)

Picture this: you’re at a bustling party, the music is loud, people are dancing, and laughter fills the air. You make a new friend and instead of fumbling to type in their username or phone number into your Snapchat app, they just show you a yellow square filled with dots and a ghost in the middle on their phone. You take out your own phone, point your Snapchat camera at it and – voila! – you’ve added them as a friend. Just like magic. But it’s not magic, it’s a Snapcode.

Fast rewind to 2015, Snapchat, a rising star in the social media cosmos, introduces something new and exciting – Snapcodes. If you’re wondering what they are, think of them as personalized digital nametags, except they’re much cooler and far more versatile.

Each user gets their own unique Snapcode, a quirky version of the traditional QR code. The ghost in the center playfully nods to the Snapchat logo, making these codes instantly recognizable. To add a friend, all one needs to do is scan their Snapcode using the Snapchat camera. Simple, right?

But Snapcodes are not just about adding friends faster than you can say “Snapchat”. They’re also a passport to a world of fun content. Businesses and content creators can create their own Snapcodes that link to websites, unlock filters and lenses, or even lead to exclusive Snapchat content.

Think of it this way: if you see a movie poster with a Snapcode on it, scanning it could unlock an exclusive filter or take you to a website with more details about the movie. It’s like an interactive, digital treasure hunt – all it takes is a scan!

Snapcodes have redefined social interaction on the platform. They’ve turned the rather mundane task of adding friends into something fun and made accessing content a form of play.

Moreover, for businesses, Snapcodes have opened up new ways to engage with consumers. Companies can create custom Snapcodes for promotional campaigns, offering Snapchat users a more immersive and interactive experience than traditional advertising methods.

As we look back, it’s clear that 2015 was a turning point for Snapchat with the introduction of Snapcodes. By integrating QR technology into the heart of the app, they made their platform more user-friendly, more engaging, and ultimately, more fun. All thanks to a pixelated, ghost-filled square.

QR code menus in the COVID-19 pandemic (2020)

Close your eyes and think back to your last dining experience at a restaurant. The rich aroma of freshly cooked food wafting through the air, the clinking of cutlery, the murmur of conversations. Now, think about how you viewed the menu. Did a waiter hand over a traditional paper menu, or did you scan a small, black and white square on the table with your smartphone? If it’s the latter, you’ve encountered one of the most innovative uses of QR codes during the COVID-19 pandemic – QR code menus.

Enter 2020, a year that put the world on pause. Amidst the uncertainty, businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, had to think on their feet. They needed to find ways to maintain operations while ensuring the safety of their customers. One ingenious solution was the QR code menu.

The idea is simple and efficient. Upon being seated, customers find a QR code at their table. With a quick scan from their smartphone camera, a digital menu appears on their screen. It’s as easy as snapping a photo but without the flash.

This new method ticks several boxes. It’s contactless, reducing the risk of viral transmission. There’s no need to handle physical menus, passed from person to person, which is a big relief in a time when safety is everyone’s top priority.

In addition, it’s convenient. Customers can peruse the menu at their own pace without feeling rushed. It’s easier for restaurants to update their menu offerings and prices, too. Think about it – no more reprinting menus every time a dish is added or a price is changed. It’s an environmentally-friendly bonus.

Moreover, this isn’t just a one-way communication tool. Restaurants can incorporate interactive elements into their digital menus, such as customer reviews, dish ratings, or even order and pay functionality. It turns a simple menu into an interactive dining guide.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this is how rapidly it was adopted worldwide. From high-end restaurants in New York to small cafes in rural Italy, QR code menus became a universal feature seemingly overnight. Necessity, indeed, is the mother of invention.

Looking back at 2020, the widespread use of QR code menus stands out as a vivid example of how technology can adapt to meet unprecedented challenges. It’s a testament to human resilience and ingenuity, even in the hardest of times. And as you tuck into your meal, you can’t help but marvel at how a small, pixelated square has made dining out safer and more convenient in these trying times.


From payments in China, to connecting friends on Snapchat, to ordering food safely during a global pandemic, QR codes have profoundly impacted how we interact with the world. These little pixelated squares are more than just a tech trend – they’re transformative tools that bridge the gap between the physical and digital realms. As technology advances, the applications of QR codes will likely grow even more versatile and exciting. So, the next time you spot a QR code, take a moment to appreciate how this small symbol is part of a much larger global shift in our digital lives.

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Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is a QR code and how does it work?

A QR code, short for ‘Quick Response code’, is a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using a smartphone camera. It stores information as a series of pixels in a square grid, which can represent a wide variety of data types, such as a webpage URL, text, or contact information. When you scan the QR code with your smartphone, the QR code reader app interprets the pixel pattern and translates it into readable information.

Are QR codes safe to use?

Yes, QR codes themselves are safe to use. However, because they can be used to link to websites, they carry the same risks as clicking on any unknown link on the internet. To stay safe, only scan QR codes from trusted sources and ensure that the link you’re directed to is what you expect.

Can QR codes expire?

QR codes themselves don’t expire. Once created, they will continue to work indefinitely. However, the content they link to can be changed or removed. For example, if a QR code points to a webpage and that webpage is taken down, the QR code would then lead to an error page.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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