Animated QR codes: how do they work, and how to create your own?


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Apr 24, 2016
Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, more prominently recognized as QR codes, are back in fashion—with much demand for just about 'contactless' everything these days.

Coinbase didn't waste time in seizing this opportunity either: its genius Superbowl 2022 TV ad was nothing but a mysterious QR code against a pitch-black background aimed at capturing your attention totally.

Even those who may not understand how exactly these quirky-looking squares work have pretty much used them at some point.

But, is there such a thing as moving or animated QR codes? And could they work?

Scan it for yourselves.

This week, technologist, "cyborg hardware hacker," and YouTuber, Zack Freedman tweeted a GIF that's gone viral.

The GIF shown below contains an animated QR code with moving frames that some might recognize—a sequence from Rick Astley's famous Never Gonna Give You Up music video.

Lyrics from the song and the music video itself have been a popular meme for the longest time used by netizens and even malicious actors trolling hacked companies.

But, other than being an artistic barcode, Freedman's GIF actually works as a QR code: scan it for yourselves!
Animated QR Code

Animated QR Code that works (Zack Freedman)

Assuming your QR code scanner app works, the above GIF will lead you to the official Never Gonna Give You Up music video on YouTube.

This unexpected turn left many amazed, with some calling it a "weird wizardry," "LEGEND," and one even complaining that YouTube began "rate-limiting" the video due to excessive traffic.

In fact, there exist online tools, like the one created by QR4 and software engineer Jeroen Steeman, allowing you to create your own animated QR codes!