Google’s New Link Shortener (and Secret QR Code Generator)

Google is out with a new more widely accessible version of its link shortening tool at goo.gl. Like longstanding competitors bit.ly and Tiny URL, it will shorten any link to be used in various social networking and communications scenarios. It claims to be much more stable and faster.

But for the purposes of this post there is something much cooler happening here. Google SEO guru Matt Cutts tweeted last night about an “easter egg” (read: hidden) feature of the service. Adding “.qr” to the end of any shortened URL will automatically generate a QR code.

That code is then associated with the URL and sends subsequent mobile scans to that address. The QR codes themselves can be added to Web sites, marketing materials, store signage, T-shirts, business cards, etc. Google has already integrated with Favorite Places.

This has more of a cool factor than a practical factor (for now). That has everything to do with smartphone penetration and even lower penetration of bar-code scanning apps and users. It’s just not mainstream yet. But that will change over time.

For now, some Android devices natively scan, and iPhone has many scanning apps. RedLaser is my favorite, but that only handles UPC codes. For QR codes, try ScanLife and ShopSavvy. Pre-iPhone 3Gs isn’t recommended for lack of auto focus hardware.

Here’s one I created in about 30 seconds, just for fun. You’ll have to scan it to see what it is.

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