Welcome back to our debate on Captcha. if you missed the last post, we began a new type of format where we present a controversial issue in web design, and then present the arguments that both sides would make when discussing it.
The first issue that we decided to address was the issue of captcha. You’ll find a much more detailed explanation of what captcha is in the first post of this series, but to summarize: Captcha is the security device that features scrambled letters that a user must spell out in order to be allowed to (generally) create an account of leave a post on a blog discussion.
In the last post, we presented the arguments that someone might use if they were defending the use of captcha. The pro-captcha arguments included the facts that bot spam is a serious problem, and that captcha is one of the most effective solutions for it. The defenses also went over potential time and money lost from failing to protect against it.
In this post, we’re going to present some of the strong arguments against captcha. After that, we’ll discuss the best place to find common ground.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Captcha
While there are some compelling reasons to use captcha, there are also some compelling reasons not to. Most of them are based around one thing: User experience. Your users are your primary consideration and you should be thinking of them and their comfort first. Bot spam is a serious problem, but captcha may not be the answer for a variety of reasons.
It Drives Away Readers Too
Captcha may prevent bots from posting, but it can also prevent your readers from posting. Remember that the online audience has a very short attention span. You might be surprised by the number of them that would choose to walk away rather than take part in captcha. This inconvience of the obstructing captcha is not even the only reason it could drive away readers.
You should consider the effects that captcha has on users with disabilities. While some captchas come with sound files attached, and others allow an infinite number of resets, even this may not be enough for some people to get past them successfully.
You’re taking a lot of risk in instituting captcha, but the rewards are worth it, right? Not necessarily. There are already many ways to get around captcha.
It is Easy to Get Around
Captcha was supposed to be designed to be unreadable by computers, but human ingenuity knows few bounds. While it was a generally well-kept secret among hackers and programmers that captcha had been broken, it entered the national spotlight when well-known concert broker Ticket Master had all of their captchas essentially ignored by buyers with independent programs looking to buy mass tickets. Bots aren’t even the only problem.
With the expansion of broadband into the developing world, a new trend has surfaced. On many freelancing sites, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, marketers offer mere pennies for human-created comments on popular blogs. Captcha is completely helpless to stop this type of spam, and it is even harder to catch than the original bot-oriented spam.
There are Better Solutions
Captcha was not the best solution that was presented to combat spam problems, it was simply one of the first and cheapest ones. Most web designers should find that captcha is unnecessary in many places because there are more effective solutions if they are willing to look for them; and particularly, solutions that don’t affect the experiences of their users.
Some websites have found success by allowing people chosen out of the community to have light moderation powers which allow them to delete spam messages at no cost to the owner of the website. There are also other less intrusive verification measures that can be found all over the web.
Your users should always be your first priority, and anything that makes them feel inconvenienced is not the solution that you are looking for.
Next time, we try to find the middle ground in the argument over whether captcha should be used online.