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CAPTCHAs killed… by making them fun with FunCaptcha?

Telstra may have killed the CAPTCHA thanks to an ACCAN initiative pointing out the squiggly letters and numbers are discriminatory against the disabled, but a new Australian start-up aims to kill them by making them fun - and picture based.

We wrote about Telstra and ACCAN’s CAPTCHA-killing efforts almost exactly a year ago at iTWire here, but a new Aussie start-up has developed a different way to keep the benefits of CAPTCHAs without all the hassles.

CAPTCHAs are designed to weed out spammers and automated tools which flood comment systems with spam, or create endless accounts with various online services, but for those without perfect sight, or who simply don’t enjoy deciphering swiggly words with weird lines, there hasn’t been much choice if a site you use has them in use.

Now comes Brisbane-based company SwipeAds with its FunCaptcha system, promising ‘a series of simple and entertaining tests that are faster and more accurate than the puzzles used in traditional CAPTCHA tests.’

SwipeAds’ CEO and Co-Founder, Kevin Gosschalk, said that ‘tests to stop automated systems accessing online registration and comment forms were essential to stop rampant spam and cyber-fraud, but had become a source of frustration for users.”

“The current tests are so difficult that one in four people fail on each attempt at demonstrating to a website they are a real person, which means, in trying to stop spam and other abuses, our industry is driving away legitimate users and customers.

“Right now, these essential tests prevent automated systems from pretending to be users and without them we would see an increase in spam, more users having their social media and email accounts hacked, and scalpers targeting services such as online ticketing for major events.

"The issue for website managers is that as computers become better at recognising letters and numbers, the tests become even harder, and more frustrating, for humans.

“Getting frustrated with these online tests can impact a customer’s online experience and worse, turn a potential purchaser away.”

Gosschalk provides some stats to illuminate the problem, stating that ‘it takes the average user 2.3 attempts to navigate a traditional CAPTCHA which means, with more than 300 million tests served up a day, an estimated 114 years is spent each day trying to solve the puzzles.’

SwipeAds other Co-Founder, and its COO, Matthew Ford, who is ‘a former game designer with Atari and Microsoft, said the company’s FunCaptcha solution relied on finding tests which were inherently easy for humans to tell apart.’

Ford stated that: “FunCaptcha uses sophisticated software to generate enjoyable and easy tests for customers, that are even harder for computers to hack.

“For example, our brains are pre-wired to quickly recognise genders but it’s a surprisingly difficult task for a computer.

“One of our tests asks users to select the face of a particular gender, which is easy for a human to do at a glance and extremely difficult for a computer to do consistently and accurately.

“We also ask users to rotate an image so that it is facing the right way, which is something people from all cultures, of all ages, on all devices instinctively understand even without instructions.

“Our users are more likely to solve tests the first time, and more quickly, than traditional CAPTCHA tests.

“It is a system which is more secure than traditional tests, and designed so we can stop security breaches at the touch of a button.

“We are serving up more than 30 million FunCaptchas a month. Sites that replace standard tests with FunCaptcha show a rise in conversion rates of more than 20 per cent, which means more online users are doing business with our customers.”

The FunCaptcha system is available as a free download to all site owners here, with plenty more info on how it all works - with more than 20,000 websites already using the system. 


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.