The CAPTCHA is Dead! (Eventually, maybe, sort of.)

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 11:57 AM


No one particularly loves CAPTCHA's, those tiny boxes that make you type in hard to read pieces of text to prove that you're a human being. 

Last week, Google announced an algorithm that can crack CAPTCHA's with 99.8 percent accuracy. The algorithm was designed for Google Street View -- it's supposed to pluck address numbers out of photos and make sense of them for Google's computers. But a computer that can decode a grainy photo of an address number on a house can also decode a CAPTCHA. 

So what happens now? Well, just because because CAPTCHA's are theoretically useless, it doesn't mean they'll immediately go away. Spammers would first have to recreate Google's algorithm. And even if and when they do, stray CAPTCHA's could persist. The internet is filled with redundant security theater.

And when these floating text CAPTCHA's are truly gone, we'll need something else - some cheap Turing Test to separate us from the bots. Whatever that looks like, it's a near-guarantee that it'll be something annoying. Maybe the next generation of CAPTCHA's will ask us to I.D. a picture of Ryan Gosling, or hum a few notes of music into our computer. We'll have to keep finding things we can do but our computers can't.


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Comments [5]

Cody from California

The new captcha is surveys. Surveys that don't even unlock the content 99.99% of the time.

Jul. 04 2015 06:56 PM

Whatever happened to fingerprint ID?

Apr. 22 2014 12:59 PM
Shelly Brisbin

Now googling Ryan Gosling. Signed, my mom

Apr. 21 2014 08:20 PM

99.8% accuracy outdoes me pretty significantly when it comes to CAPTCHA accuracy. I can't read those probably ten percent of the time. I lose to Google again.

Apr. 21 2014 04:48 PM
Jerry Chandler from Virginia

As annoying as they may be, the downside of getting rid of CAPTCHA is that they have found a way to use it for a good purpose.

Seriously. Go to Youtube and check out a Ted Talks video with the title "Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration".

Apr. 21 2014 12:48 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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