Photograph by Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Kia Kokalitcheva
May 13, 2016

When ephemeral messaging app Snapchat rolled out a slew of new features last year, it included a new way to add friends by scanning their unique QR code.

At the time, Snapchat said it was to make it easier and faster for users to add friends. The “snapcodes,” as they’re called, are also an additional way for users to market their presence on the app and amass a following by posting their code on social media. The codes are also customizable, yet another way Snapchat wants to make them fun and appealing to users. Snapchat built its snapcode feature by acquiring Scan.me, a startup that developed QR code scanning and creation, in the fall of 2014.

But that new feature also meant that Snapchat’s camera is a general QR code reader, which the company doesn’t seem to have publicized.

A user can simply point it at a QR code and snap a photo, and Snapchat will detect the code and the information it links to, like text, a web link, or an image.

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With that said, if a user is sent a QR code as a photo and opens it, as they would any image or video sent to them by friends, Snapchat doesn’t process the code. Meaning, that a user can’t send a link to a website, for example, to a friend via a QR code.

When Fortune contacted Snapchat about its QR code reader, a spokesman quickly responded that the company doesn’t have anything to share about the feature, which it’s had for a while. Though this could be a hint that it’s quietly planning to expand this feature, it could also just mean that it’s there and won’t go any further.

This missing capability makes Snapchat’s QR code reader quite puzzling. While it can be fun to test it out or possibly even useful if you don’t want to download a separate app for that, QR codes aren’t all that popular right now, so it’s largely pointless.

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In fact, if it did let users “scan” codes they received via photos, it could become a useful tools for brands and marketers to propagate additional content to Snapchat users. Along with photos and videos they share, codes that lead to web links could serve up a sign-up page for a service, or an online store to make a purchase. A code could link out to a mobile app for users to download, and so on. As Snapchat continues to grow in its quest to become a media powerhouse, it needs to keep brands and marketers interested and make them feel like they can get a lot of mileage from the time and money they invest in interacting with Snapchat’s users.

So if Snapchat doesn’t have plans to expand the reader’s capabilities, could it be missing out on an easy way to further please brands and marketers?

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