“CAPTCHA Chronicles” – The Trial and Tribulations of Proving You’re Human

I’m fed up with CAPTCHA and having to verify I am a human being. It feels like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Having to repeatedly demonstrate that I’m not a robot to some entity that stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” is exhausting. As an acronym, for me, CAPTCHA stands for “Can’t access the page? Try Clicking Helplessly and Panic!” It was created to differentiate between human users and bots online, preventing bots from spamming to manipulating online platforms such as websites and forums. Grainy images in a grid pop up where I’m supposed to tick off all the ones with a fire hydrant or bicycle, and routinely, I get it wrong because the images are so bad.

Why are there always bikes, hydrants, buses, and crosswalks? Why not something interesting, like travel destinations with beautiful hotels, so you can learn about some new locations in the process? Alternatively, they could use pastries. Who wouldn’t find that interesting? Most people have some level of a sweet tooth.

CAPTCHA is the digital equivalent of a bouncer at a club. Instead of checking for IDs, it’s quizzing you on the street signs and storefronts to see if you’re “cool” enough to enter the website. It’s the online version of “prove you’re not a robot” before you can party on the Internet, but here’s the thing. I’m not partying online. I’m paying a utility bill, and I can’t get in to download and pay it because I can’t see the minuscule object in the back of one of the distorted grids. So, a new grid reloads because I failed the previous one, and I have to go through it again, except this time with buses, as I stab the keyboard in frustration, feeling like I’m in kindergarten. A utility company will send you a dozen CAPTCHAS to ensure you’re not a robot before they let you into the magic kingdom to pay your bill. The most convincing thing would be to reply with objectionable language to clear the road that you’re not a bot so you can get to where you’re going. One or two vile words fed into CAPTCHA, so it will blush and want you off its platform.

I have enough to do in my day and don’t need to have riddles imposed upon me. If you’re a human being, prove it. Here’s my middle finger. Can you see it? If you can’t, then you’re the bot, not me.

I had no idea that robots were logging into utility companies to pay their bills. I completely missed that memo. Instead, I land on an unexpected online obstacle course that questions my humanity one click at a time.

They need to improve CAPTCHA for mature gals and make it more accessible and user-friendly with precise images and instructions to provide straightforward, easy-to-understand execution in completing CAPTCHA tasks. If you miss one, that’s okay. It’s a ‘gimme’ like in golf, and you move on. These aren’t the SATs. Larger text and more explicitly focused images would be a good start. Some images are so grainy they look like somebody salvaged them from a damp basement, all speckled and confusing to decipher.

The CAPTCHA text, where numbers blend into letters, some lowercase, some uppercase, and all merged, can be challenging to interpret, especially when your glasses are not within arm’s reach. How is anyone with a visual impairment supposed to navigate through that? Audio Options is an excellent offering for those with difficulty reading cryptic messaging. I know the audio words I’d use to clarify that I’m a human, and they certainly wouldn’t be warm and fuzzy!

Another idea is to make things as easy as pie for our senior surfers by cutting down on brain gymnastics. And for those who fancy a bit of brain teaser during their afternoon tea, why not let them dial up or down the CAPTCHA challenge level to suit their mood, depending on how much time they have to spare?

How about making CAPTCHA as adaptable as a chameleon, so it’s a breeze whether you’re swiping on a smartphone or clacking away on a keyboard? Responsive designs are the key to ensuring CAPTCHA interfaces play nice with all our gadgets. But the real MVP here is feedback. Having our silver surfers provide precise pointers on their CAPTCHA submissions so their online journey goes from frustrating into a breeze and giving them a thumbs up or a gentle nudge while they’re CAPTCHA-ing.  Testing CAPTCHA with seniors makes total sense. Who better to say whether CAPTCHA is nailing it than those who’ve seen it all, from rotary phones to TikTok challenges? They’ve lived in an age when trust existed and wasn’t a setting on a website.

Implementing all or some suggestions will make it more inclusive and accessible, enabling us to navigate online platforms more effectively and free us of these digital hurdles in front of the most ridiculous sites. I doubt there’s CAPTCHA when entering a porn site, and there should be, maybe, with trigonometry equations. I can see how any age-sensitive sites should have one, but they don’t. Instead, utility companies employ them. How foolish is it to make it difficult for those wishing to pay their bills? Who’s the rocket scientist who decided it was a good idea to create barriers for customers trying to pay them money?

There should be a CAPTCHA for online forums where users can post comments or discussions that are often targeted by spambots. Implementing CAPTCHA during the registration or posting process can help reduce spam and maintain the quality of discussions. E-commerce websites that allow users to create accounts, leave reviews, or submit forms can be susceptible to bot-generated spam. Put them there. Add it to account registrations, reviewing submissions and contact forms to enhance security.

Online polls and surveys attract bots that attempt to manipulate results. They should be bitch slapped by CAPTCHA to help ensure the integrity of the data collected. Include them there and on, reviews, and especially contact forms – all prime spots for a CAPTCHA makeover, streamlining communication with legitimate users.

Online gaming platforms with user-generated content are like magnets for bots trying to crash the party with spam or phishing attempts. Why not gatecrash their plans by throwing a CAPTCHA at them during account creation? Social media is no different – comments and messages are ripe for bot shenanigans. CAPTCHA obstructions can keep those automated killjoys on the sidelines. Online banking and financial services should be the VIP lounges of CAPTCHA, ensuring Fort Knox-level security for our precious data and transactions, but where do we find CAPTCHa instead? Oh, right, with utility companies because nothing says ‘high security’ like paying your electric bill.

Now, find all the boxes with crosswalks.