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The Entire World Hates CAPTCHA. So Why’s It Still Here?

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by PatrickFebruary 17, 2014

Chances are somewhere in the blogosphere, you’ve encountered “CAPTCHA.” Chances are you hate it…like everyone else. So why is it still everywhere?

I hope that the team of people who invented those squiggly little words designed to make sure someone who was trying to leave a comment or access a site was actually a someone versus a spambot is satisfied: they managed to create one the most annoying things on the web!

And these days, as many annoyances are waiting at every turn, that’s saying something.

If you’ve never heard the term CAPTCHA, the illustration in this post gives you a perfect picture of exactly what it is. The only thing the illustration doesn’t convey all that well is how difficult some CAPTCHA words can actually be.

From a more technical standpoint, it is a test in which letters and numbers are twisted and often placed on a gradient to make them difficult for computers to read. The notion, of course, is that if a human being is at the keyboard, he should be able to read the letters and type them in, thereby getting past the obstacle to whatever action or area of a website is behind the CAPTCHA. A computer executing some sort of spambot routine or other nefarious activity, theoretically, would have a difficult time reading the twisted text and would be unable to get through.

CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” An appropriate explanation of its function.

But it’s still annoying as hell.

Funny thing is, there hasn’t been a single time that I’ve sent out a tweet during a blog-related Twitter chat suggesting that CAPTCHA should be avoided at all costs that the tweet hasn’t been retweeted numerous times. I’ve gotten responses ranging from “+1”, a note of agreement that carries over from Google+’s equivalent of a “like,” to “Amen!”

There’s not one person I’ve seen yet who’s ever admitted to liking CAPTCHA. I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoys trying to read the squiggly letters and hope they’ve done so correctly.

Everyone hates CAPTCHA. So why do bloggers still insist on it?

Perhaps it’s because they’re afraid that there’s no other option. They’re wrong in that assumption, of course, except in probably only a handful of cases. The most common place I see CAPTCHA used is in comments. At this point, in 2014, there is no excuse whatsoever for using CAPTCHA as a spam test in comments.

It’s better to not pre-moderate at all than force a user to enter a CAPTCHA to leave a comment. We already know that, by some estimates, a mere 10% or so of readers actually leave a comment. Why risk alienating the few readers who generally are willing to comment by making it so difficult?

The better WordPress comment platforms, like Livefyre (which this blog uses) and Disqus, don’t require a CAPTCHA to leave a comment. Many offer either guest options, their own logins or logins through social media accounts. Using a blog platform’s base comment system may make CAPTCHA more of a likely option. But there are plugins that give you alternatives to those twisted letters.

Technically, any test that requires a response that an automated user wouldn’t be able to answer is correctly called a CAPTCHA. But all CAPTCHAs are not created equal. There are logic-based CAPTCHAs, which ask questions like, “What color is the sky?” and if you answer “blue,” you’re in. There are math-based CAPTCHAs, with simple math problems like, “What is 2+3?” If you’re smart enough to add to five, you have no problem.

Then there’s the “Play-through CAPTCHA.” The plugin “Are You Human?” offers the user a quick game: you drag a mouth and mustache placed among items like cars and a salt shaker onto a partial cartoon of a human face. When you complete the face by placing the missing elements where they belong, you’re in.

It’s cute, I’ll give it that.

But still annoying.

My favorite anti-spam test plugin is called Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (or GASP). GASP requires one simple action that takes a single mouse-click: you simply click a checkbox to verify that you are not a spambot. No convoluted letters to interpret, no silly questions, no mini-video games designed for a kindergartener. One check box.

Not nearly as annoying.

Please, dear readers, do the blogosphere a favor: kick those twisted text CAPTCHAs to the curb! Please! There is a better way, and your readers will appreciate it. Isn’t improving their experience worth your time?

Are you less likely to comment on a blog is a text-based CAPTCHA is involved? Would you ever employ such a thing on your own site, and if so, why?

Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 25 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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18 Comments on "The Entire World Hates CAPTCHA. So Why’s It Still Here?"

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Steve
Guest

Agree most are terrible. But FunCaptcha seems okay so far for me anyway. They let me brand it, and it actually stops bots so far unlike reCaptcha with it’s food pics that bot services auto-solve by using Google images!

Bot
Guest

Fortunately there are now computer programs that can defeat Captcha. Now humans can prove that they’re human by using a computer program to defeat the Turing test… #Irony

earl
Guest

I can work any idiot Captcha around, so I must be a real human. Trouble is, one of the nasties is pegging captchas with some sort of advert. Your screen nearly always gets messed up. Also, even without ads, you need to re-do the blankety test ad infinitum. And I do mean AD because most sites hang 2 or 3 wonky ads to make your day a true hell. Lord deliver us!

Fred
Guest

And now in 2015 there are even more annoying ones where you have to tell food or other items apart that look ambiguous enough to require to resubmit 5-6 times and then you aren’t even in yet. You get a code you got to copy/paste in another box and the paste option doesn’t even appear on ios. Ughhhh
The worst part is that I wanted to contact them over another ios glitch and wasn’t able to. Oh the irony.

patricksplace
Guest

BillyRubin The only real way to combat captcha on someone else’s website is to not use the portion of the site (comments, etc.) that use it. You can follow up by sending the website owner a quick email about why you aren’t participating. There’s always the chance that feedback like that will prompt a website user to change their mind about it.

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