The “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” better known as CAPTCHA was born around the year 2000 and since then, it has created as many frustrations as it has confusing symbol combinations. Admit it, we’ve all suffered a tiny panic attack when stumbling upon a particularly difficult array of letters and quietly questioned ourselves on why we should have to prove we are human to an object that so clearly isn’t.

CAPTCHAs were created to protect online sites from abuse by preventing automated systems (“bots”) from performing actions that would degrade the quality of service of said sites, such as preventing excessive simultaneous transactions that could quickly clog the capabilities of the hosting server. Popular websites that utilize CAPTCHAs include TicketMaster, Yahoo, Google, and many financial service institutions.

We humans intrinsically find solving games and puzzles satisfying especially when a reward is associated, and when CAPTCHA was created, the intention was to capitalize on this condition to validate transactions in a quick and simple way. The problem was that the simplicity of the designs faded quickly and more “sophisticated” combinations started to appear as a response to smarter bots being developed. For this reason, CAPTCHA puzzles were no longer a quick filter for humans, but a time consuming effort that would turn a motivation-driven activity (register to a website or get seats to an event) into frustrating abandonment. The bottom line was that businesses were alienating their own target markets.

Companies like TicketMaster didn’t take long to realize that committed customers were leaving the website after several failed attempts to solve a CAPTCHA. Consistent revenue streams 15 seconds away from materializing were evaporating rapidly. As a result, the company chose to dump the old verification system and adopted a new version that pairs questions with multiple choice answers, or words with pictures, or simply asking for the user to respond to an ad in a specific way. So while the bad news is that CAPTCHAs are not completely going away, they are evolving into friendlier puzzles that will take you half the time to figure out (about 7 seconds).

As technology evolves, so will CAPTCHAs. Hopefully, this will also improve the interactive online experience for the 2.5 billion Internet users in the world today.
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Diego De la Garza

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  1. CAPTCHA really is the scourge of the internet I hate the things so much, they look more like a bowl of spilt noodles than recognisable characters and, this combined with my dyslexia, leads to endless frustration.

    I am all for the new ad CAPTCHAs, they are bit 1984 but at least I can get past them easily, Like everyone else on the internet, i love the games CAPTCHAs best!

    I am now using software called rumola to read and fill the terrible things in for me while I am doing the rest of the form. Makes the chance of me hurling my laptop out of the window decrease significantly! You can try it at if you are interested :)