Recently in the New York Times, we placed a small graphic as part of a Google Print Ad. You aren't looking at one of those eye focus games (It's a sailboat! Or a shark!) but a two-dimensional barcode. Those of us who already know what it is pulled out our phones and "clicked" it with the camera, and were connected to the advertiser's web site. "Wha?", you say? See http://www.google.com/printads/barcode. While this kind of thing has been a common sight in Asia for years, this ad is one of many signs that the technology is arriving in Europe and North America.

But Advertising is only part of the story here. Engineering is also involved and we want to improve the quality and availability of barcode reader software available to developers and end users. So today I would like to announce the "ZXing" (from: "zebra crossing") project, an open-source, Java, multi-format 1D/2D barcode reader which can be built into a reader application for Java and Java ME -- and later, Android.

This project began as a 20% project and is not yet complete, so opening it up is a bit of an experiment. It's not yet the Best Barcode Reader Ever, but it's looking pretty good. For now we want to find those those who can make use of and help improve what's here, so that those good ideas are shared to all developers and everybody wins.

Developers can find the ZXing project on Google Code, and we hope you'll join us on our Google Group and tell us about what you like and don't like about the code.