News & Blog

No More Questions With Google’s New Low-Key Captcha

By Francis West on 16th March 2017

A new Captcha system, developed by Google, will secretly study how your interact with a web page rather than asking questions or setting puzzles in order to prove that you are a ‘human’ visitor.

Why Captchas?

‘Captcha’ is actually an acronym (dating back to 2000) for ‘Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart’. Captchas are used to stop automated bots accessing and using websites. If Captchas are not used, some of these bots can post spam comments in blogs, sign up for thousands of email accounts every minute e.g. on Yahoo, buy multiple tickets from ticket sites, gather email addresses (written in text) from web pages, distort online polls, and launch dictionary attacks on password systems. The use of Captchas can also offer full protection to pages that you don’t want to be indexed by search engines, and offer worm and spam protection.

Captchas are also useful to search engines in training their AI bots to recognise aspects of photographs.

Typical Types.

Typical Types of Captchas include puzzles when logging into a website, that require you to tick the boxes in picture puzzle grid that show e.g. parts of a shop-front or road signs, or asking you to enter a series of letters and numbers that you can see displayed in a Captcha-generating box.

Google’s New ‘reCaptcha’ System Is ‘Invisible’.

The important difference about Google’s new system ‘reCaptcha’, from a user perspective, is that it is invisible i.e. it no longer sets puzzles or asks the user to record their interpretation of visual or audio cues (in most cases).

Tick A Box First

Instead, reCaptcha asks users to tick a check-box on the website they are using. It then runs in the background, monitoring the behaviour of the user on the web page, and, therefore, relies upon its ability to be able to tell the difference between human and robot behaviour. For example, humans may take longer to complete online forms, will move the mouse around, and will need to interact with elements of them, such as the submit button. Robots, on the other hand, can complete this kind of process quickly, and with little or no mouse use.

Where the new system is particularly suspicious that web page activity is robot-like, it can still choose, at that point, to deploy a puzzle.

What Does It Mean For Your Business?

For web users i.e. potential or existing business customers, although they may be used to being met with a Captcha when accessing many services online, it can still be an irritation, a possible deterrent, and can have a negative impact on the experiences of customers on business websites. The reduced impact and interruption of the new system could, therefore, allow businesses to strike a better balance between providing good online experiences while providing effective protection from spammers, and other problems that unlimited bot access can create.