First off , let me say that “reCAPTCHA” is trademarked by someone – I don’t know who and haven’t taken the time to look it up. For the purposes of this post, it really doesn’t matter.

reCAPTCHA is a good idea on paper – but so is communism. In reality, reCAPTCHA sucks as is evidenced by the following images

So, what two words?

reCAPTCHA is full of images like that – I’ll add some more as I run across them.

Their definition of “word” is a bit skewed IMO, sometimes they are just useless jumbles of letters or numbers – even punctuation.

As a general rule, I just leave websites that use reCAPTCHA – it’s almost impossible to get an image where you can make enough sense of the two words to get them entered.

If it’s a website that I really need to access, then I just sit and cycle through the refresh button looking for a set of words with enough clarity to read. I’m not sure who’s server is being “refreshed”, but it’s costing them bandwidth – at least when I get to the site.

If those images come off the reCAPTCHA server – what does your website do if that reCAPTCHA server fails?

Once you find a set of words you are happy with, then Heaven forbid you get it wrong because some websites won’t even preserve the form data for you and you have to start completely over.

There are easier ways to do what reCAPTCHA does – on most of my websites, I just ask a simple math question – like “2 + 2 = ?” or “two plus two equals ?” and then tell them the answer is 4 and instruct them to type “4” in the field. A bot can’t do that – well, it could, but it would have to programmed to look for that.

A similar method is to use a set of equations that all add up to the same number. For example – pick your answer value of 13, then present one of several equations

10 + 3 =
6 + 7 =
8 + 5 =

you get the idea. On the form processing side, check for “13”, if it’s not there, re-display the form with the data filled in and either increment a counter of failed attempts, and/or change to a different answer value.


UPDATE: 9-17-2012 – I was doing some work for a client last week and we ran into one of these reCAPTCHA forms – as I’ve stated, I hate them, but he needed this so I was attempting to persevere – he’s sitting behind me just rattling off the answers … hmmm.

I mentioned that to my wife, who then commented on how she hates those reCAPTCHA things and has the same issue I have with them.

Then we realize – we’re both left handed – my client is not – correlation? not sure, something to consider – maybe it’s a left brain versus right brain kind of thing?

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