reCAPTCHA – making the internet un-usable since 2000

So, what is it all about – CAPTCHA (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) – they say “CAPTCHAs play an important role in keeping the internet spam-free and making everyone’s experience a little bit better.” Which is of course complete bullshit. Let’s face it, how many times have we been faced with images such as

Seriously, if I get a page saying

I’ve really no idea on the second set of letters…. tmn then what?? Spend the next 30 minutes attempting dozens of these damn things?

So, you chance the option for the Audio version, listen to some garbage, try your luck at what it may have been then get

An error occurred:

Input error: recaptcha_challenge_field: Invalid version number for captcha challenge token.


Now, so far this is totally failing in “making everyone’s experience a little bit better.” Just who do they think they are kidding when they say “Don’t worry. Some CAPTCHAs are hard. Just click the reload button next to the image to get another one.” There’s only so many times and so much time I’m going to keep trying before I get ticked off and go elsewhere.

So, perhaps that is exactly the point. These Captcha’s are not there for telling Computers from Humans, but to weed out those who have the patience, or those who ‘see’ them and those that don’t. I know a few years back, experiments were being done that involved high pitched sounds being played in public places. The result was it cut down younger folks from ‘sticking around’ because it was annoying them, but older people were unaffected in most cases since older people don’t hear these sounds too well. So, maybe Captcha is the youth on the internet telling us older folk to get lost… Mind you it’s not just us older folk who have issues….

In an August 2012 presentation given at BsidesLV 2012, Defcon Group DC949 referred to the latest version as “unfathomably impossible for humans” – since they were not able to solve them manually either.

The web accessibility organization WebAIM reported in May 2012, “Over 90% of respondents find CAPTCHA to be very or somewhat difficult.”

The matter is also made worse, for those of us who prefer not to have our browsing tracked. Many of the CAPTCHA don’t work well through Tor browsers (onion proxies) because of the use of scripting…. Anyone worth their salt would have browser scripting turned off. As a result here is an example with no javascript:-

If we allow scripting on the page

Clearly far easier to read and make sense of.

So, could it be that since Google now own CAPTCHA and they want your browser history etc. etc. they are deliberately forcing those who would be anonymous surfers to turn on scripting and open themselves up to the potential risks that come with it?