Spelling out those annoying distorted words on websites may soon be a thing of the past — at least as far as Google is concerned. The search giant revealed a new, simplified Captcha on Wednesday, one that reduces the process to merely clicking a box that says, "I am not a robot."
It sounds great, but what's to stop bots from clicking that box, too? Plenty, according to Vinay Shet, Google's manager of reCaptcha, who explains in a blog post that the new engine behind the tool looks at user behavior before, during and after clicking the box. Presumably, patterns in mouse-pointer movement and even the act of clicking itself can reveal whether the user is human or machine.
If it works, the change is a big win for user convenience, and Google even says it's more secure than before. The reason for the change, Shet writes, is because Captchas based on hard-to-decipher words are no longer fooling bots like they once did.
Vicarious, a company developing artificial intelligence systems, claimed a year ago to have created a program that could defeat any word Captcha (which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) up to 90% of the time. Others have made similar claims.
Since there's usually no mouse pointer on mobile, Google's clever check box won't work on smartphones and tablets. Instead, Google uses a different kind of visual reCaptcha for mobile, one that asks users to identify various images that match a sample. For instance, it might show a picture of a turkey and then show nine more images, five of which are also turkeys. That kind of complex visual information is much more difficult for a computer to interpret than just words.
Google calls the new tool "No Captcha reCaptcha," and any website can implement the API. Some of the first services to do so include Snapchat and WordPress.
As it rolls out, Google's new-and-improved Captcha will make the web a more convenient place, while making various services safe from bots — at least for a time. Inevitably, those bots will evolve, as well, and the arms race will continue. But for now, web users can pop some champagne emoji in celebration that the days of squinting at distorted words are numbered.
Tags: APPS AND SOFTWARE, CAPTCHA, Google, RECAPTCHA, Tech