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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Why captchas are getting harder

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It’s not you — captchas really are getting harder. The worst thing is that you’re partly to blame.

A captcha is a simple test that intends to distinguish between humans and computers. While the test itself is simple, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. The answers we give captchas end up being used to make AI smarter, thus ratcheting up the difficulty of future captcha tests.

After a failing a captcha, the test will provide you more images, giving you another chance to prove your humanity.

Is there any feeling more frustrating than clicking all the correct answers and getting a “please try again”?
Screenshot, Edward Vega

But captchas can be broken by hackers. The tests we’re most familiar with have already been broken. Captcha makers try to stay ahead of the curve but have to balance increasing the difficulty of the test with making sure any person — regardless of age, education, language, etc. — can still pass it. And eventually, they might have to phase out the test almost entirely.

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