Dump the CAPTCHA

Why do do new or moderately trafficked sites insist on using a CAPTCHA on their registration form? A CAPTCHA is a simple test to verify an actual person is using the computer and not a machine, usually in the form of a “type the letters in this graphic” question. They are used primarily to thwart spam bots roaming the web.

Sites create an unnecessary roadblock to user adoption, and it seems to be becoming more common. The problem is, these tests can be unintelligible and a normal user can’t pass it. If you’re MySpace or Facebook and getting thousands of registrations a day, then it makes sense to worry about thwarting the bots, but until then, please dump the CAPTCHAs. Use email verification instead, which you probably do anyway, so no need to beat up your users before they’re actually users with too many tests.

Today, after 5 attempts, I failed my CAPTCHA test at fatsecret (techcrunch coverage). It looked interesting, I wanted to see how they did some things as the idea is similar, feature-wise, to what we do with personal finance on NetworthIQ. Plus, I could stand to lose a few, so maybe it could help me out. But, now we’ll never know for sure because I can’t sign up.

4 thoughts on “Dump the CAPTCHA

  1. Agreed. I hate them. I am surprised at the people who use them. Is that the best idea Google could come up with for stopping automatic Blogger registrations?

  2. I completely agree, CAPTCHA’s are getting so obfuscated that the real users-humans-can’t even pass it.

    As an alternative to using CAPTCHA’s, many sites are now using a random question of which should deter bots. Questions like “Is ice hot or cold?” (zeldman.com) or “What’s the opposite of down?” are viable solutions to this ever increasing problem.

  3. @Adam – Well, Blogger/Google needed to do something because the splogs were growing like weeds. I’m more concerned about sites that don’t have a spam/bot problem. But, I agree that with the talent at Google, something better should have been developed, and I do find the need to pass the CAPTCHA in order to comment incredibly annoying (I forget if that is a user setting or the Blogger standard).

    @Cory – You’re right, the new approach to use random/simple questions, for me anyway, is much better. The user is not (if the question is simple enough) left wondering, after hitting submit, if their answer will be the right one as they often are with the CAPTCHA image.

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