Should you use CAPTCHA on your site?

CAPTCHA image

Captchas are the distorted letters and/or numbers that site users have to decipher and write out in a form before that form can be submitted.

Their purpose is to stop automated form completion by bots (software applications used to perform automated tasks on the internet) that pretend to be real site users in order to submit spam or access free services intended for those real users.

So, what is wrong with captcha?

Well, if you are a site user rather than a site owner, problems with captchas will leap out at you – they are irritating, difficult to read, and often do not work on the first attempt.

Worse, they are not just difficult to use succesfully for the average site user, they can completely exclude some users (for instance the visually impaired). Whilst some sites add an option to read out the captcha to overcome this problem, these spoken captchas are distorted, and usually at least as difficult to decipher as visual captchas.

However, one of the biggest problems with captcha is that it makes legitimate site users do work that is really the site owner’s responsibility. Alternative methods exist for reducing spam without passing the responsibility on to the customer.

It is hard to understand why any site selling goods or services would be prepared to lose customers rather than do a little extra work to deal with any extra spam.

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