If you were born prior to the turn of the millennium, you most likely associate the word “CAPTCHA” with an instant feeling of irritation and a squinting of the eyes, in an attempt to read two garbled and barely legible words from a small box on your computer screen.



Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then, with Google’s Invisible reCAPTCHA shaping up to be the final nail in the coffin for on-screen security checks, removing the “I’m not a robot” checkbox for a large majority of human users. The system will instead rely solely on Google’s behind the scenes user behaviour tracking algorithms, displaying a CAPTCHA only for those users who are deemed suspicious.

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. From the early years of the internet, the CAPTCHA system has protected online resources from unwanted access by spam bots, requiring users to prove they are not a robot by typing the letters from a distorted image of warped or otherwise distorted text that a computer could not read, but a human could.

In 2009 Google introduced reCAPTCHA, putting to use millions of human CAPTCHA entries to both prevent spam and assist in the digitalisation of books. The system has completely digitalised the archives of the New York Times, dating from 1851 to the present day.

The reCAPTCHA system has evolved over the years, from the switch to challenges which ask the user to select one or more images from a selection of nine images, to the introduction of No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA in 2013, which implemented behavioural analysis of the user’s interaction to present a considerably more difficult CAPTCHA where the user is suspected of being a bot.

Google remains understandably tight lipped about how exactly these user behaviour tracking algorithms work, although they have stated that the systems use “a combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis that adapts to new and emerging threats.”

We look forward to a slightly less annoying, yet spam-free future for First Internet clients and users.

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