Being Human: Google’s New API Solves an Internet Annoyance

As long as there have been websites, there have been tools in place to keep those sites safe from spam and hacker abuse. And undoubtedly one of the most common of these tools has been the “CAPTCHA,” that box that requires users to type in a series of distorted and misshapen letters, numbers and symbols to prove they aren’t a “robot” but rather a real, live human being capable of comprehending the CAPTCHA symbols, entering them accordingly and gaining access to said website.


Historically robots aren’t able to solve the distorted text, but new artificial intelligence programs are changing that, allowing non-humans to gain access to sites with a scary 99.8% accuracy. It would seem that the traditional CAPTCHA feature, therefore, is no longer a dependable test.

Another problem with the last generation CAPTCHA feature is, in a word, annoyance. Too often the letters were so distorted, so fuzzy and so unreadable that it was impossible to enter them correctly on the first try. And so frustration ensued, all in the name of protecting your favorite blogs, shopping portals, subscription and contact forms and news sites from abusive scripts and dangerous malware.

Thankfully, an on-line giant has come to the rescue. Google recently unveiled their “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” feature that works on a simple and logical premise: it just asks users whether or not they’re robots. The new API (application programming interface) allows users—in most cases—to merely check a box to pass the challenge of proving they’re flesh and blood. It works by analyzing a user’s entire engagement with the CAPTCHA feature—Google isn’t divulging just what engagements are being tracked, for obvious reasons—to determine in an instant whether it’s a human or a robot attempting to access the site. And if the status of a user can’t be determined, it continues with a series of prompts and cues that add additionally security checkpoints to ascertain human versus robot.

If you frequent Snapchat or WordPress it’s likely you’ve already encountered the new No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA security feature. And infinitely more websites are adopting the new API, so if you haven’t encountered it so far chances are you will soon. The benefits of Google’s new feature are simple: less hassle and faster access to where you want to go and what you want to see with a dependable level of security for website owners and operators.

Google has also made reCAPTCHAs mobile-friendly, experimenting—in some fun ways, actually—with new types of challenges that are streamlined for smartphone and tablet users. Mobile-friendly reCAPTCHAs already include image matching games, much more enjoyable then deciphering the previous jumble of hard-to-read text and symbols.

Traditional CAPTCHA protocols will still be around for a while, of course, as not all websites are scurrying to adopt the new technology. But at the very least the feature shows significant promise in alleviating a long-standing annoyance for Internet users, and all without sacrificing security for easy accessibility.

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