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You may know that you aren’t a robot, but how would a computer find out? In the early days of the internet that was a tough question people struggled to answer. To stop spam from flooding people’s inboxes due to bots filling out forms with fake information, developers needed a test that a human could pass but a bot couldn’t. The trouble was, the computer needed to be able to verify the answer. In other words, we needed a test for which a computer could determine whether you gave the correct answer but which the computer itself could not solve. The answer they came up with is the “CAPTCHA” or, Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart.
The first CAPTCHAs consisted of images with wavy or distorted letters, called synthetic distorted text, that humans would have no trouble recognizing but computers could not understand. Although this method of stopping spam is still widely adopted and commonly in use, it has increasingly been less effective. As A.I. and computer vision have become more advanced, bots are becoming better able to recognize these distorted images and pass the test. In fact, back in 2014, the Street View and ReCAPTCHA teams at Google joined forces to create an algorithm which could solve CAPTCHAs. The result? They created a bot which could “see” the obfuscated characters in the CAPTCHA and determine what they were with 99.8% accuracy. For reference, humans scored an accuracy of roughly 33%. The moment their research paper was published, virtually every CAPTCHA on the internet became obsolete. If we want to continue to prevent spam in the future, we need a better solution.
The No CAPTCHA ReCAPTCHA
You can think of No CAPTCHA ReCAPTCHA as a smarter CAPTCHA. ReCAPTCHA was originally developed by a small Pittsburgh company back in 2007 and later acquired by Google in 2009. In its current form, the ReCAPTCHA system allows users to click a checkbox to confirm that they are human. No CAPTCHA ReCAPTCHA works by using behavioral analysis algorithms that look at how a user interacts with a page and predicts whether the user is human. If anything looks a little sketchy, you’ll still be asked to solve a simple puzzle which usually involves identifying the contents of images.
The Invisible ReCAPTCHA
Recently, Google announced it had developed the next step in CAPTCHA technology, the Invisible ReCAPTCHA. Google wants to make submitting a form easy for humans and difficult for bots. With the Invisible ReCAPTCHA, users won’t have to do anything. Google’s algorithm will determine whether you are human. Just submit the form and you’re done. Most likely, you’ll never realize that the page had a ReCAPTCHA on it. According to Google, this new system works by using “A combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis that adapts to new and emerging threats.” Of course, the company is not giving out any more details than that. Google likely wants to keep the important parts secret to prevent hackers from discovering a way of circumventing the system.
If Google’s new Invisible ReCAPTCHA system flags you as suspicious, then you will still be given the usual puzzles to solve to prove that you are human. However, Google says that when sites switch over to the new system, the clear majority of users won’t see any CAPTCHAs whatsoever.
If you are a website owner, the Invisible ReCAPTCHA is likely something you’ll want to get your hands on as soon as you’re able. The old CAPTCHA system tends to frustrate users and makes it harder to submit forms. Every website owner knows that it’s important to make potential customers reaching you as easy as possible. This new invisible ReCAPTCHA certainly helps.
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