Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

If you’re like me, you have a hard time with captchas.

What are captchas, you ask?

They are those widgets on the Internet consisting of letters and numbers that you fill out so that the Internet site can make sure you’re a human and not a computer, thus keeping spammers from infiltrating your website or blog.  Here are examples of captchas:




There are two problems with captchas:

(1)  They are often hard.  Idiot humans like me sometimes have difficulty determining what the letters and numbers are.

(2)  Spamming computers are getting more sophisticated and being able to "read" them, thereby thwarting their utility.  In fact, you probably won’t find a captcha like the top one shown above, because computers can now easily identify the letters.

What’s the solution?

As a result, the hunt is on for puzzles that are friendlier to humans and more difficult for computers. Many researchers are focusing on expanding the test beyond the constrained realm of 26 letters and 9 digits.

Microsoft has developed a captcha that uses images.  The user is asked to simply distinguish a dog from a cat — something VERY easy for a human, but pretty hard for a computer.  Here — give it a try.

There are other human-friendly captchas out there that also abandon the scriggly-letter-and-number approach.

Here’s a good one.

Here’s another (scroll down a bit)

So that’s what’s going on in the world of captchas.  Now you can impress your friends.