Now that’s really evil

Like a lot of people, I am often annoyed by “captchas”, those ludicrous things where you have to squint sideways at some wildly distorted text and attempt to decipher it and type it into a box to “prove” that you’re an actual human rather than a spambot. Given that AI systems can defeat most captcha systems, and seriously determined spammers employ cheap labour to manually decode the filthy things, they end up being nothing more than an annoyance to legitimate users. Like other attempts to solve behavioural problems with technology (copy protection, software activation, DRM, Windows Bloody Genuine Complete Disadvantage[1]), it does nothing to stop the actual offenders and simply serves to annoy legitimate users. Unlike AI-driven spambots, I find some captcha systems singularly difficult to interpret, and I’d be much happier if people stopped using them.

But it seems it could get worse rather than better. If there’s one thing more irritating that captchas, it’s aggressively in your face adverts on websites. I don’t mean banner ads, or contextual adverts of the Google variety, so much as floating ads that take over the page if you accidentally move your mouse pointer over the wrong point. Or those damn silly fake loading page ads that appear before showing you the page you’ve asked for.

So, what’s the worst thing you can think of? Yes! It’s video bloody ads with the bloody captcha embedded in them, so you have to watch the advert to see the floating text to type into the box so you can register with the site, or post a comment, or whatever the photon it was you went to the site for in the first place.

New Scientist reports that this particularly loathsome scheme is being offered by a Canadian company called NuCaptcha[3].

Any site using this might as well put a big sign up reading  We hate our customers. I’d have to be really desperate to log on to a site to put up with this kind of nonsense. In general, I’d be more inclined to go elsewhere.

Captcha adverts capture your attention – tech – 20 October 2010 – New Scientist.

[1] Seriously. I don’t so much mind Microsoft treating its customers as criminals until they can prove otherwise, as them popping up damn silly messages telling me that the hoop -jumping they make me do[2] is for my own benefit.
[2] Product activation, repeatedly having to prove that a licensed Windows installation is legitimate, etc, etc…
[3] See the New Scientist article if you want a link to them. I prefer not to directly link to anything so horrible

3 thoughts on “Now that’s really evil

  1. Michael Mandulak

    Let’s start a movement to ban all sites that use captcha… (I already do) Now they’re talking of streaming video? I can’t hit the red X fast enough.

  2. Michael McMahon


    I’m an advisor to NuCaptcha, and if you’re interested I’d like to give you a few points to consider.

    1. Current CAPTCHA systems continue to progress down a path of increasing obscuration of the key, making it more difficult for both computers and humans. NuCaptcha came up with a new idea, motion over motion, which is far more difficult for computers to decipher, while also far easier for humans to read.

    2. Most CAPTCHA systems have 25 to 15% error rates in human testing, while NuCaptcha units are successfully completed on the first attempt by over 97% of users.

    3. NuCaptcha’s backend systems allow them to tailor the speed, complexity, and stringency parameters. This makes it possible for NuCaptcha to put human solvers out of business and to better detect and thwart bots.

    4. Most publishers are desperate for additional revenue and many are struggling as they find that banner ads aren’t delivering enough revenue to support them.

    5. The NuCaptcha Security Platform is considered to be the most secure CAPTCHA system commercially available.

    I became an adviser because I saw potential in both making CAPTCHAs easier to use and generating revenue for publishers. Legitimate users actually spend less time solving a NuCaptcha than any traditional CAPTCHA, and the security features are excellent.

    On the other hand, don’t get me started on the fake security of “airport security screening”…

    I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, and if you choose not to post this I understand and appreciate the chance to have responded.



    1. Les Post author

      Quite happy for you to make your comments…

      The problem of how to fund websites is a tricky one – it’s difficult to get visitors to pay for what they’re looking at, but intrusive advertising drives people away if they don’t filter it out. So I can understand your reasoning, I just don’t think it will make visitors to sites any less annoyed, or less likely to go elsewhere.

      I remain unconvinced that what the web needs is a “better” captcha. At best they’re an interim solution until somebody comes up with a human detection system that’s less annoying.

Comments are closed.