What is CAPTCHA?

Well, since you asked, CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart". Since the dawn of the Internet, people have tried to abuse websites for both sport and profit. As the abuse became profitable, the scale of abuse grew using automated software (sometimes referred to as bots). To prevent bots from overrunning sites with spam, fraudulent registrations, fake sweepstakes entries, and other nefarious things, publishers responded by testing users to see if they were human or not.

CAPTCHA implementations can be found on more than 3.5 million sites globally, and human beings solve CAPTCHA implementations more than 300 million times a day.

Think of the children!

For the time being, the most popular implementation of CAPTCHA has been reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA started out as an altruistic endeavor to leverage the power of the collective (crowdsourcing) to assist computers in digitizing text. In short, some of those squiggly words you've struggled with in the past were images scanned from books. However, after being acquired by Google in 2009, this crowdsourced effort was re-tasked to help Google index more sources of data to provide advertising against for revenue. This is great for Google shareholders, but not that sweet for the rest of us. More recently Google has begun leveraging reCAPTCHA to assist in the analysis of street signs. Images taken from Google Street View cameras are now fed into the system to add data to the Google Maps project in the form of more accurate street names and traffic signs.

All of this adds up to more revenue for Google and more squinting for all of us. Don't worry, we're on the case and growing very quickly.

Death by Squiggly Letters

The most common, old-fashioned way to make CAPTCHA "more secure" is to obfuscate the letters displayed with increasing severity. As bots have become better at bypassing CAPTCHA through OCR, most providers have responded by making their puzzles harder to read. This vicious cycle has, in turn, made it harder for humans (but more profitable for optometrists).


What's worse is that some providers display unknown characters, foreign languages, and completely unintelligible "chicken scratch". (You know who you are.)

Foreign Language CAPTCHA

Alternatives abound

Pick the cats out of the pictures, add these numbers, solve this fancy equation, and even translate this text are some of the alternatives available on the market today. Of course, with every silly variation comes a deteriorated user experience. Some alternatives even ask users to play games which can be a giant, insecure mistake, not to mention time consuming. As a publisher, CAPTCHA is meant to verify the user and grant access to desired content. Solve Media saves users half the time and all the aggravation.

Be accessible

Most CAPTCHA solutions don't offer accessibility, which is just awful. Those that do typically do a poor job of it. At Solve Media, we take the responsibility seriously and we're told that we do the best job on the web at it. Even still, we're not satisfied. We'll make it even better over time.

How do I get all this and more?

Publishers can sign up here to use Solve Media's CAPTCHA platform.

Advertisers interested in buying verifiable engagement from humans can contact us here.

Questions & Answers

Is CAPTCHA all that it takes to secure my site?
CAPTCHA is one important way to secure your site, but not the only way. Learn more about security.
Does CAPTCHA have to be such a horrible User Experience?
Not anymore. Solve Media is more than distorted images. We determine the likelihood a user is human or bot before we even serve them a puzzle. We use math, keep it simple, and we eliminate frustrations.
Can you advertise inside a CAPTCHA?
Of course! CAPTCHA advertising is immersive, native, and memorable. It is estimated that anywhere from 4% to over 50% of traffic online is automated bots. As an advertiser, you want to make sure you are getting your message to real, live humans that are paying attention, every time. Solve Media can help.
What is OCR?
Optical Character Recognition is the process by which computers convert human readible text into digitial values that are understood by computers.
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is the practice of getting services, ideas, solutions, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, online, instead of from traditional employees or suppliers.