Oh No, Not Ads Within Captchas

By  |  Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

If you’ve ever stared helplessly into the hazy, jumbled letters of a Captcha, the Wall Street Journal relays some disturbing news: a start up called Solve Media plans to turn these Internet nuisances into advertisements.

Instead of the usual nonsense in the Captcha box, companies will pay to show a message that the user must re-type. For instance, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 ad requires users to type a slogan, “Browse Safer.” Toyota’s ad will will require typing the amount of money the company spends on safety, “a million dollars an hour.” The idea is that if you repeat the message, you’re more likely to remember it — more so than banner ads, which are easily ignored.

Ad revenue pays my bills, so I’m all for effective advertising, but I have little patience for Captcha. Despite its noble goal of blocking spam bots from comment forms and user registrations, there’s plenty of evidence that they’re hackable. Maybe they defend against the garden variety spammer, but at the expense of precious time. Solve Media’s chief executive and co-founder, Ari Jacoby, told the Journal that Captchas are filled out 280 million times a day, and the average user spends 14 seconds on each one. That’s 124 years spent filling out Captchas every day.

Solve Media’s solution has one saving grace: The text looks normal, thanks to some kind of unique pixelation that foils hackers, and therefore takes less time to decipher. By comparison, the classic ReCaptcha, whose wavy text helps scan old books into digital form, is best known for being illegible. Other methods entail tracing images and solving simple puzzles, bringing back nightmares of standardized middle school aptitude tests. I’m not convinced Solve’s method can’t be broken, but I’m glad it’s straightforward.

Still, I never met a Captcha that I genuinely liked. Ultimately, they are gates you must pass through, and being asked to regurgitate some marketing jargon doesn’t sit well. What’s next? Will web video require us to verbally answer questions before we can keep watching?


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10 Comments For This Post

  1. KTF Says:

    I don't get it… I don't like ads in the first place, why would I type something IN one? To get more information on the ad? Why? I could just go to their site if I really wanted to know more about the product/service…

  2. Paul Says:

    No, the ads would be in the captchas that you would use for say, submitting a comment on TUAW ( I think they use Captchas) or maybe opening an account on a message board.

    Ity would not be just having standard captchas in the ads like you think, it's the other way around.

  3. John Baxter Says:

    Dear advertisers and site owners: there are lots of sites on the web. I don't need to type your slogan or to visit your site.

  4. CPM Says:

    This "unique pixelation that foils hackers" is trivially breakable by my cell phone (Google Goggles).

  5. TechClicker Says:

    I don't see a problem with this. Why does it matter if you're prompted to re-type a series of jumbled letters or an advertising slogan. CAPTCHA's are necessary and do filter much of the spam that would otherwise make comment threads like this practically unreadable. Advertising is an integral part of the web and supports much of the free content we all regularly consume. So I'm totally in favor of this unique and clever spin on it…

  6. cheryl Jones Says:

    this is brilliant. as a publisher i love this–content is not free and this is easier for consumers and will pay the bills for publishers

  7. Luke Says:

    Will paywalls start coming down now? No??? Yeah, that's what I thought……

  8. Stefan Says:

    Re. KTF:
    Don't say this too loud…
    That's all I need that those annoying pop-up ads would require typing in some phrase in order to finally disappear.

  9. TechClicker Says:

    I think you're missing the concept of what these are. You would not be randomly presented with popup ads into which you'd have to answer some prompt relating to what the ad says. These ads would take the place of traditional CAPTCHA methods, just doing so in a way that generates revenue and allows advertisers to better connect with consumers.

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