You’re filling out a form online or trying to log in to a website and are asked to type the numbers you see in a blurred image. Or you have to provide an answer for the sum of 8 + 7 before you can continue. That’s a CAPTCHA field, and they are so common today that you probably don’t even think about how they work. However, as a Fort Collins internet provider, we get asked what the story is behind this kind of hoop that you frequently have to jump through. We give you the scoop on CAPTCHA below.
What Does “CAPTCHA” Mean?
The first question some people will ask is, “What does CAPTCHA stand for?” (That is, if they don’t assume it’s just a catchy way to say “capture” for “capturing information that proves you’re a human”!) CAPTCHA is an acronym for a term coined in 2003 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper, and John Langford: “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.”
The “Turing” in the name refers to the Turing Test. According to Wikipedia:
“The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses.”
So, in other words, a CAPTCHA requires that someone attempting to complete a form be able to prove that they are human. They do this by interpreting information presented in the way a human would. Which leads to the next question, “Why were they developed?” Among other things, CAPTCHAs prevent computer programs often referred to as “bots” from being a nuisance and submitting a company’s request for information form 10,000 times!
Why Can’t Bots Beat CAPTCHAs?
Solving a typical text-based CAPTCHA requires skills that computer programs have trouble replicating. Specifically, bots struggle to “understand” that the letter K presented as a wavy, warped-looking version of the standard typed letter is nevertheless a K. But, as you are doing some web surfing on your Fort Collins internet connection, your brain can make that distinction pretty easily.
Similarly, in an image that has a K and an R bumping into one another, you can see the two separate letters. A bot can’t, and that difference keeps the amount of web form spam that companies have to deal with from going through the roof. And, when companies spend less time and money on dealing with spammers, ultimately everybody wins.
Internet Advance or Annoyance?
Whether you see CAPTCHAs as a great tool for keeping spammers at bay or an annoyance depends a lot on your circumstances. But, the science behind them definitely is interesting. If you are researching Fort Collins internet providers and have questions about our services, don’t hesitate to fill out our minimally CAPTCHA-protected Contact Us form! You can also stop by our facility or call us at 800-935-6527.