Friday, May 21, 2010

Can You Say CAPTCHA?

When I wrote a post titled “What’s Up with Visual ID?” a few weeks ago, I had no idea the appropriate technical term was CAPTCHA. I should have become suspicious when my Google search for Visual ID turned up almost nothing related to those squiggly distorted words and numbers that tell a computer you are a person.

Had I searched for CAPTCH, an acronym which roughly stands for “Completely Automated Public Test to Tell Computer and Humans Apart, I would have found a lot more dirt on this spam busting creation, including the whole CAPTCHAs history in Wikipedia.

Having the appropriate term did not change much about my understanding of these little enigmatic pieces of text that are practically impossible to identify if your vision is impaired, and even difficult to identify if it’s not. I was not surprised to learn that people in the business of accessible technology, at Google, Apple and Microsoft, harbor a deep dislike of the CAPTCHAs, as do I.

So, do me a favor, try a couple of CAPTCHAs on the live demo at reCAPTCHA…and try out the “audio challenge” while you’re there. What do you think? Have you seen, or heard, any better ways to prove you’re only a human.

I was surprised to read that some 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved every day.

Makes me wonder how many aren’t solved?


  1. I tried the google captcha over the weekend, and boy was it frustrating! Worst of all, the audio option was totally impossible to decipher. I tried to e-mail google for assistance but received no word from them.

  2. The thing that bothers me about the reCAPTCHA project, specifically, is the audio version doesn't match up with what is supposed to be typed inside the input box. The visual version is a word of some sort, and the input box expects those two words to be typed in. When you listen to the audio version, its just a bunch of random numbers, and if you try to type in those random numbers, recaptcha says its not the correct word.

    I find that to be the case with most captcha's out there. I don't mind the audio captchas, but these captcha authors need to start accepting input from the audio version as well as the visual.

  3. I agree with everyone who has posted about the google captcha. It's impossible to decipher! When I finally decided to create a google account, I ended up contacting google customer service for assistance. The tech on their end created the account for me and e-mailed me my username and password. From then on, it's been much easier to post on blogs or do other things that require a google account.


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