The hopeful end of Captcha

One of the more annoying things about using the Web is those little confirmation boxes called Captchas that you have to type in some words to prove that you are a carbon life form and not some computer program scanning a site. I don’t know about you, but I have to try two or three different code words before I can complete whatever task it was at the time. I used to think it was just old age, bad eyesight or memory, or fumble fingers but now I realize that it is a more systemic issue.

And the problem isn’t just folks like me that can’t figure out the message in the box: hackers have developed code to do so or companies pay actual people to defeat them for their evil marketing purposes. This makes for another arms race as the Captcha people make even more difficult to read codes for us to interpret. This isn’t what we had in mind when we started using the Web back in the early days.

Of course, there are companies that are innovating in this space, trying to make a better mousetrap, or bot-trap. They are NuCaptcha.com and SolveMedia.com. Both have developed new algorithms that make it easier for people to use but not for machines or gangs of low-paid keyboarders. They are now being used on a number of Web sites, such as Microsoft and Toyota and so forth.

How do they work? You have to watch a short video where a marketing message – like “oh what a feeling” is presented on the final frame. Then you are asked to type this message into the box to confirm that you are you. By putting the information inside the video, you make it more odious for the human keyboard gangs to enter the information, because they have to wait for the magic letters. It is also more difficult to program any machine recognition too.

You can see a simple example here.

Personally, as long as they don’t blast some audio clip along with the video, I am ok with this approach. And perhaps there will be other companies that will have other innovations in this area.

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