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CAPTCHA Me If You Can

Text: I'm not a robot... A robot hand about to hit a red button.

How many of you are tired of checking off a box by Google reCAPTCHA to prove “Iā€™m not robot” then seeing a pop up window showing images? I think they are not better than original CAPTCHAs that showed letters that were distorted beyond recognition.

Every time I click the checkbox to prove that I’m not a robot, I have a feeling of trepidation about whether a pop up window would show up or not. When I see the window pop up, I feel like seeing a Jack in the box:

Source: Giphy

(The gif shows Will Ferrell as Elf in the movie winding a box and wincing when seeing the jack popping out of the box.)

When you see a pop up window with images, items you are asked to choose are either hard to find or are not found at all. I was asked to find bikes, for example, and all I saw in the pop up were a bridge and bushes. Were bikes hidden behind the bushes? Another example was to find several squares with an object, but actually one object is split into squares. So frustrating!

What’s next? This pop up window showing images that are blurred beyond recognition?

When you click images, you will see text saying: “You’re a human. You are not invited.” It’s a parody project developed by Do Something Good and featured in a Fast Company article.

What is CAPTCHA?

CAPTCHA is:

  • an acronym for a VERY long combination of words: “Completely Automated Public Turing test to distinguish between Computers and Humans.”
  • supposed to prevent bots from spamming websites. It used to work in the past, but not lately as bots are becoming smarter and more sophisticated.
  • bad not only from user experience, but also accessibility perspectives. W3C wrote an article explaining why CAPTCHA is inaccessible.

CAPTCHA Issues

Matt Unsworth published a video titled: Robot beats “I’m not a Robot” Captcha.

The video shows a yellow robot with goggly eyes using a stylus to tap a laptop trackpad. It checks off a box to say: “I’m not a robot.” It drops the stylus. Graphic sunglasses drop on its goggly eyes. Text shows up and says: “Deal with it.”

The video may be a joke, but Josh Dzieza wrote an article for Verge “demonstrating you’re not a robot is getting harder and harder.” He explains that bots were catching up with every new CAPTCHA and are even doing it better than humans.

Tim Allen wrote for MOZ that “having a CAPTCHA is killing your conversation rate.

He said that CAPTCHAs:

  • ask frustrating questions,
  • act as a barrier between you and your customers,
  • are not a solution, but a problem,
  • are built for advertising, not users.

CAPTCHA Alternatives

Tim Allen suggested that better solutions would be Akismet or the honeypot technique.

Gravity also suggested Akismet or honeypot method in their article, RIP CAPTCHA? Why You Might Not Need It (And What to Do Instead).

Most people I have asked suggested a honeypot method.

I’ve also been told about a new version of Google reCAPTCHA v3.

However, according to DataDome article comparing reCaptcha v2 vs v3:

  • reCAPTCHA v2 is hard on humans and too easy on bots,
  • reCAPTCHA v3 is easy on humans, but hard on website admins.

What to do?

I came across a really interesting article by Rohit Prasad for Fast Company that got my attention. The author stated: “I believe the goal put forth by Turing is not a useful one for AI scientists like myself to work toward. The Turing Test is fraught with limitations, some of which Turing himself debated in his seminal paper.”

What are your thoughts?

If you have any solutions to offer, I’d love to hear them. You can do that in the online form with a subject “Alternatives to CAPTCHA.”

I’m not a robot and I hope you are not, too. šŸ¤– šŸ™‚

Published in Technology

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