Monday, September 22, 2008

Today's "Two Tech Thumbs-down" Award goes to CAPTCHAs that Blind You with Science

Invented in the year 2000, a CAPTCHA is supposed to be a sort of security measure against computer robots that would like to mascaraed as humans. "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" (CAPTCHA) gives the user a challenge response news test to see if the user can identify or calculate a set of characters.

Using CAPTCHA technology minimizes spam traffic through a given site. There is only one draw back, however. The CAPTCHA also often minimizes a user's patience. One of the most frequently used CAPTCHAs is the distorted characters CAPTCHA. Because the characters are generally hyper-distorted, sometimes even humans can not decipher the characters.

I occasionally teach computer workshops. At times during the workshop, I might instruct the students to register for a particular service. Subsequently, we may spend the next 20 minutes attempting to decipher the CAPTCHA on each others' screens. Some users become so frustrated that they want to give up before they ever get started.

While the CAPTCHA is helpful, we will need to create a better way to distinguish human computer users from robots. Until then, today's "Two TechCrusader Thumbs Down" award goes to CAPTCHAs that blind us with science.

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Rick Brown said...

This is seriously one of my biggest beefs, too. I can recall once signing up (or at least attempting to) for a Microsoft service that had a CAPTCHA device to prevent spam submissions. After the 3rd try - unable to submit because I couldn't read the image, I tracked down an email to at least feel like I had complained.

No response!

2 thoughts - one serious, one a goof.

Goof first. The smart-ass in me wants to create a 'faux captcha' - called GOTCHA that is completely indecipherable. Picture your story illustration fuzzed out completely.

On a serious note, I do like those attempts to verify human use that use math problems - 'write the answer to 6+3'.

Anonymous said...

I find the ones that present you with pictures (e.g. "Click on the pictures of the cat, the dog and the flower") easier to use than the ones that force you to decipher warped and distorted words.