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You are here: Home / Customer Service / Google Reinvents Fallible Captchas
Google Reinvents Fallible Captcha System
Google Reinvents Fallible Captcha System
By Jennifer LeClaire / CRM Daily Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
Do those tattered digital letters and numbers on captchas that aim to prevent robots from commenting on sites, registering for social media or completing other online transactions just flat out annoy you? If so, Google’s latest marketing move may make you smile.

Google has rolled out what it’s calling No Captcha reCaptcha, which still protects Web sites from spam and abuse but doesn’t annoy visitors in the process. Of course, it’s up to Web sites to ultimately adopt the tech so you can tap into its convenience. Google first announced its plans to redo the captcha system in October 2013.

Captcha stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart." Originated at Carnegie Mellon Institute in 2000, it is being used on many sites to deter bots from gaining access to protected sites and information. In 2009, Google bought the company reCaptcha, whose co-founder, Luis von Ahn, had been involved in the original development of the captcha at Carnegie Mellon.

Here’s how Google's reCaptcha works: The technology directly asks users whether or not they are robots. With a single click, users can confirm that they are real living human beings legitimately visiting particular sites for their intended purposes.

Why Traditional Captchas Are Fallible

“While the new reCaptcha API may sound simple, there is a high degree of sophistication behind that modest checkbox. Captchas have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text,” said Vinay Shet, a Google Product Manager for reCaptcha. “However, our research recently showed that today’s artificial intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8 percent accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test.”

Google developed an advanced risk analysis backend for reCaptcha last year to counter this. The backend actively considers a user’s entire engagement with the captcha -- before, during, and after -- to determine whether the user is human. That lets Web sites rely less on users typing distorted text and offers a better overall experience, Shet said.

Dramatic Improvement?

We caught up with Greg Sterling, Vice President of Strategy and Insights at the Local Search Association, to get his thoughts on Google’s move to reinvent captchas. He told us it’s a potentially dramatic improvement over the existing system, assuming it works.

“Captchas are often difficult to read and frustrating for users to enter for that reason,” Sterling said. “It sometimes takes two or three attempts for someone to get into desired Web pages or content under the current system.”

Before you get too excited, traditional captchas aren’t going away just yet. In cases when the risk analysis engine can't confidently predict whether a user is a human or an abusive agent, it will prompt a captcha to elicit more cues, Shet said. That increases the number of security checkpoints to confirm the user is valid.

The good news is the new paradigm is mobile-friendly. ReCaptcha lets mobile users tap photos of cats or turkeys rather than typing a line of distorted text on a smartphone. For now, it’s use is limited. Snapchat, WordPress, Humble Bundle and a few others are early adopters. But Shet said the results are strong.

“For example, in the last week more than 60 percent of WordPress’ traffic and more than 80 percent of Humble Bundle’s traffic on reCaptcha encountered the No ReCaptcha experience -- users got to these sites faster,” he said.

Tell Us What You Think


Posted: 2014-12-08 @ 9:09am PT
This CAPTCHA technology is wasting everyone's time and irritates people. is passive user authentication. This technology is completely passive and detects and authenticates human vs bot and bot vs bot. This is the future of the internet with more human interaction.

Posted: 2014-12-06 @ 3:27pm PT
I would trust reCaptcha more if the data was not being harnessed by Google to profile users and present even more targeted ads. Google has an inherent conflict of interest, making it not trustworthy: it uses information it learns about humans beyond the verification process, for its advertising business. I do not want to be advertised to. If Google is the doorway to a website, I will not use that website.

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