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Warning: Use CAPTCHAs to Stop Spam at Your Own Risk

Posted by on April 2, 2013 - 44 Comments

The trouble with using CAPTCHA Codes is that they keep out more than just spam; They could be keeping your customers away too.

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illegible captcha exampleNo, this is not some mystical communication arriving digitally from a distant galaxy; nor is it a series of typing errors; nor is it some high art concept based on linguistic manipulation (all right, well maybe it is the last one a little bit). No, these are some examples of the dreaded CAPTCHA codes that pop up across the web, destroying the researcher’s train of thought, the writer’s rhythm, or the developer’s creative sequence.

CAPTCHAs, or as the mealy-mouthed breakdown of the acronym reveals – Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart, are yet another weed in the Edenic garden of the web, and, increasingly, driving web users to distraction – particularly those with a disability.

 

Illegible CAPTCHAs = Infuriating (and maybe illegal)

illegible captcha examplesIllegible CAPTCHAs are distressingly common, riling the digital natives and doing unspeakable damage to usability. But, these inconveniences and irritations are magnified immeasurably when you put yourself in the position of a blind user, someone visually impaired or anyone who uses a screen reader system. Whether you’re researching disability insurance or simply catching up with friends, CAPTCHA codes can be serious stumbling blocks. 

Similarly, these things become deviously contrived nightmares when you imagine how they appear for web users with dyslexia. Indeed, if you’re a US company and are slipping in CAPTCHAs to eke out villainous spammers, this is potentially a serious violation of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act. According to the federal register, the Department of Justice is revising regulations and establishing requirements for an accessible internet. Although, as yet, no cases have been filed against CAPTCHA codes or their creators, the Department of Justice can obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.

The apparently random series of letters and numbers (or a mix thereof) that make up CAPTCHAs are already confusing enough. Add to that an impairment or disability which makes the deciphering of these codes either physically impossible or unnecessarily challenging and you have yourself a very unenjoyable web experience.

 

Alternatives to CAPTCHA alphanumeric manglings?

CAPTCHA alternative example with face - PlayThruSo what, if any, are the alternative solutions to CAPTCHAs that take into account the needs of all users, not just those of with able mind or body? Fortunately, some websites have started including an audio option with their CAPTCHA graphics. Working on the premise that humans can decipher recordings and computers can’t, these CAPTCHAs are a day-saver for anyone who struggles to decipher warped words. However, if you have a hearing impairment, they are totally pointless.

CAPTCHA alternative example with tools - PlayThruMoreover, the demands placed upon the short-term memory of the user are frankly ill-educated. Whilst evidently, it’s challenging to create a CAPTCHA system that takes into account the needs of every web-user, there must be a simpler way of identifying a human from a computer?

Like most things in life, it requires a little imagination. From simple maths equations to full on gamification, the guys at areyouahuman.com are working tirelessly to end the unidentifiable CAPTCHA code for good.

CAPTCHA alternative example with drinks - PlayThru“None of the current CAPTCHA solutions were able to consistently stop automated attacks,” says Tyler, company founder of Are You a Human and certified human being “— not to mention how unpleasant they were for users to interact with. Sites were stuck in a catch-22: the more they tried to stump bots by making CAPTCHA more difficult, the more they confused human users and drove them away. There had to be a better solution: something dynamic and complex enough to block bots, yet simple and fun for actual people. So…why not use a game?”

CAPTCHA alternative example with enter words you hear - PlayThruIndeed, now you can make lemonade or add toppings to pizza to prove your sentience. It’s a vast improvement to some of the mind-alteringly unnatural CAPTCHA codes that have found their way onto the web in recent years and hopefully, will benefit those who struggle to identify them.

Whilst it’s true that most CAPTCHAs keep the bots at bay, it’s also true that they are directed at users without physical or mental disabilities. Thankfully, these issues are being recognised and now, there are more disabled options accompanying CAPTCHA codes than ever before. Here’s to more of the same!

 

Emily Buchanan sitting by a book shelf with her hand on her cheekAbout The Author

Emily Buchanan is a writer and editor living in Norwich, UK. She specialises in outdoor education, the environment and the cultural impact of digitalisation. Outside of work, she cuddles cats and sketches strangers. 

 

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44 Comments

Ally says:
Apr 02, 2013

I am dyslexic and it is refreshing to hear people speaking about the issue of CAPTCHA. I have such problems reading them that it is virtually impossible. I have started using CAPTCHA bypass software and, although it is excellent, I shouldn’t need to install specialist software just to get by on the web!

Alas, as you said, nobody has filed disability discrimination against CAPTCHA so it doesn’t look like it will be disappearing any time soon. I have tried a lot of bypass software and I have found RUMOLA is the best. As a bonus feature it was also developed for disabled people (the partially sighted) and not spammers like a lot of the big name brands seem to have been. You can give it a try at skipinput.com 🙂

Jake Joehl says:
Apr 05, 2013

This is an excellent post. I, too, have run into the dreaded CAPTCHA more than once, and I truly despise the visual-only ones. I’ve actually been able to make out at least one or two of the audio ones, but it wasn’t easy. I’ve seen several instances of text-based CAPTCHA’s though, which I have no problem with. Examples include the comment submission form on the blog on my home page http://www.samobile.net/users/jjoehl , and the comment submission form for the American Foundation for the Blind’s blog at http://www.afb.org/blog .

Emily Buchanan says:
Apr 16, 2013

I’m glad you both appreciated the article – it’s certainly a very important subject.

Eric says:
May 11, 2013

I can’t imagine trying to decipher a captcha with dyslexia. Just today I left two separate websites because I was tired of fiddling with their captchas.

kendall rose says:
Jul 04, 2013

Solve Media is the leader in the space and they sre very charitable

Andrew Bonar says:
Jul 23, 2013

Agree that CAPTCHA is unfriendly and does not enhance but detracts from the user experience. Regardless of whether the person is living with a disability or not. Although I am sure for many the amplification would be amplified considerably.

The picture based CAPTCHA alternatives are fun, I think however aesthetically they may well impede on your sites design and still impede on the client experience.

There are two alternatives to help filter out the spammers, that are simple to implement and do not impact the User Experience.

Honeypots and Invisible checkboxes.

Whilst one technology requires javascript (invisible checkbox) so does the alternative ‘areyouhuman’ outlined above I believe.

To find out more about using these simple and elegant solutions for stopping spam entries at the door you can read this article here:

http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/post/3817/stopping-spambots-with-two-simple-captcha-alternatives

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%first_paragraphThere is a big difference between the ophthalmologist and the optometrist. There are also many similarities between the two which may confuse a lot of people with regards to the responsibilities of each. Although both professions concentrate on the eyes and sight, the difference is acute and can be explained very well.

In the United States you many more options such as the University of California (Berkeley), the University of Houston (Texas), or the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University. make sure you make a quick visit every so often to make sure your eyes are holding up, and you should be good to go! The field of Optometry is massive, and one can get involved easily.

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The most common treatment that is prescribed for the patient is eyeglasses or contact lenses. Most contact lenses are for the remedy of nearsightedness or myopia whereas; hyperopia is usually treated with wearing eyeglasses.

An ophthalmologist is an eyeball doctor that is licensed to carry out eye test, give diagnosis & performs typical eye surgeries & procedures. Further, let us describe each to understand further of what each can do to your eye trouble. This kind of eye doctor had finished pre-medical studies, job, with extensive 4-5 years of training & medical service. On the other hand, all optometrists are also an eye doctors who had graduated a 5-year optometry course but didnt attend a medical college.

Your eyes are pretty important, you used it daily that even when relaxing you still use it like when relaxing on a hot tub and reading or just lying on your bed watching television. Your whole body may be relaxing but your eyes are still working and when it is time for a check up you conveniently forget that they too need some maintenance to keep them going and remain in good health.

An optometrist is a doctor but not a medical doctor. Some specialists continue their education with advanced residency training as well. He or she is a doctor of optometry. The educational period for becoming one can be as many as eight years – four years of undergraduate study and four years of education in an accredited school of optometry.

In order to assure that you get the glasses you want, the fit that you want, and the lenses that you need, these vision centers offer you a one hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed policy. If their customer is not happy with the eyewear they have purchased then all they need to do is come back to the location they got the glasses at and allow the friendly staff to help them fix their issues. The whole goal of these professionals is to make you happy. This is done as easily as walking in and just saying you are not happy with the product.

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Prescription medications, even minor surgery, are also on the list of things this specialist is authorized and highly- trained to do. They can also prescribe contact lenses, eyeglasses and other reduced vision assistance.

The professionals should work respectfully for their clients and even build a good rapport. For some, the best optometrists are those who can relate and make a good connection with their patients. A friendlier optometrist makes people feel relaxed and be able to let them discuss and ask more questions regarding their conditions.

It is true that the Blizzard Optometrist St Arnaud is open each weekday while the Blizzard Optometrist Stawell is open only once each week, but that does not reflect on the quality of care and dedication you will receive at either of these locations. The Blizzard Optometrist Stawell simply does not at this time have adequate numbers of patients to support their remaining open every day. The day they are open they are all about eyes, and all about getting their patients the proper glasses and frames to make them see well.%

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