When you’re building a website that includes a submission form, it can seem like you’re just putting up a sign that says “Please send us all your spam.” Spammers love to use automated programs to fill out web forms (such as a contact form), and a CAPTCHA can help protect you from getting hundreds or thousands of junk responses a day. You’ve seen them—those devices used to detect if a human is completing an online form. (It’s an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart. This fun fact will make you a hit at parties.)
But CAPTCHAs can be annoying—how many times have you encountered scrambled text that you, a human, can’t decipher? And you might feel uneasy about using the standard CAPTCHA service, Google’s reCAPTCHA, as it’s been shown to be hackable recently. Plus, as Scientific American points out, CAPTCHAS are 100% effective at screening out blind people.
So what’s a web designer to do? A new CAPTCHA startup is trying to abolish the culture of garbled text: Are You a Human? has visitors play a brief game instead. They call it PlayThru—the simple games are rendered in Flash or HTML5 (so it works on mobile devices), and there are audio fallbacks for people using screenreaders. They’re also working on audio games. (I really love their gallery of horrible captchas.)
Read more about how to make CAPTCHAs better in this piece by David Pogue in Scientific American.