Comment Captcha Fail

Posted by Adam Pieniazek | Blogging Tips | June 2nd, 2009

Ah, captchas, the bane of many internet users around the globe. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but nearly always they annoy your visitors.

For those who don’t know, captchas are those verification fields on web forms that you must pass before your comment gets published or email gets sent. They usually take the form of an image with text or a simple math equation or question you must answer. They’re designed to prevent spammers from bogging down the web site owner’s email inbox or comment queue, but in the end they just serve to push humans away while still letting a lot of spam bots through.

Comment Captcha Fail

While comment captchas might seem like a great idea, the problem is they often fail. Either they’re too loose and let the spam bots in or they’re too tough and discourage real human users from posting. I’ve found the Akismet plugin does a good enough job keeping the spam out that there’s no need for comment captchas.

But on super high traffic sites, I can see the benefit of a properly implemented captcha that keeps 90% of the spammers out while discouraging only 10% of the human users. In such a scenario, a captcha can be a positive. Unfortunately, many sites use captchas when they really don’t need to, or implement them so poorly that they fail at all goals.

Check out the below captcha that Orble uses after a visitor writes a comment on one of their sites.

Orble Captcha Fail

Orble Captcha Fail

Now, there’s a few reasons this captcha fails. The first thing you should notice is a big black and white fuzzy box. That box should display an image of some text for the user to input to prove they’re human (spam bots have a tough time reading images, though they’re getting better). Instead, we just get a lot of fuzz.

Clearly, Orble knew their captcha was full of fail because below the box where the image text should be they have a very helpful bit of information.

If you cannot read the letters in the image type in “nwvghp”

Well, that’s awfully kind of Orble to list the letters we need to type in if we can’t see the image, the problem is spam bots can read text too. Listing the image letters in text on the same page completely defeats the purpose of a captcha.

Don’t Annoy Non-Spamming Humans

In other words, all that this particular captcha system does is add an additional step for human commenters. Oh, and it also discourages people from commenting on the Orble blogs. It might even cause bloggers to lose comments if people don’t see the bit of text giving them the input code and just assume the captcha is broken and move on.

So, take a lesson from Orble and don’t implement comment captcha systems that fail. If you must use a captcha, ensure that it’s easily decipherable and has options for users who cannot read (e.g. a sound clip of the letters). But, the best scenario is to simply ditch the captcha and implement other spam prevention methods that don’t annoy human visitors.

The first goal of any captcha system should not be to block as much spam as possible. Instead, it should be designed with the valid human user in mind. Implement a system that is clean and easily navigated by humans. Otherwise, you’ll just annoy all your human visitors and likely won’t stop that many spammers.

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9 Responses to “Comment Captcha Fail”

  1. Comment Captcha Fail

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Ha! Your example of the site that told users “If you can’t see this, enter nwvghp” really made me laugh. I’ll ditto your suggestion to simply ditch the CAPTCHA and use other technology to solve the problem. 😉

    Thanks for a great post and a good giggle.

  3. Tip: If you’re going to provide the CAPTCHA answer, don’t bother to use it. RT @AdamPieniazek: Comment Captcha Fail

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. Larissa,

    I’m glad we made you laugh! We’re a business so we are serious but there’s certainly room for making people chuckle now and then.


    And yes, now a days there’s better ways to block spammers than punishing your real human visitors with captchas.

  5. Post similar to mine ( ) RT @AdamPieniazek Comment Captcha Fail

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. I didn’t like the captcha that Orble used either Adam. I had fits for the first few times that I was trying to comment on a friends site and it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to figure it out. After slowing down and taking the time I needed, I got it done, but if it weren’t for a good person, I wouldn’t even have bothered to figure it out and wouldn’t have left the comment on that site.

    I would not recommend using a captcha like the one orble uses.

  7. deno
  8. How can anyone with a brain actually ADVOCATE site owners flaunting their illiterate inability to write or spell legibly with this fad of making captchas just for the fun of sadistically tormenting people by trying to make them guess what words they are trying to spell with those awful strings of pure nonsense?

    Why do site owners want to deliberately sadistically torment site visitors and users with these illegible strings of pure nonsense captchas, just to make it hell for a person to post or download something or do anything on a site? Isn’t it counterproductive for a site owner to try to drive people away from their site with this sadistic hell of tormenting people with captchas?

    I have 20/20 vision, don’t need glasses or contact lenses, and most captchas are total HELL for me to read & try to guess what word the idiots were trying to spell with their illegible illiterate nonsense. When I have a migraine and still have to do something online, this illiterate nonsense captcha fad that site owners think is so much fun to torment people with, often make the headache become so much more intense that I end up being unable to endure looking at the computer screen and end up having to just shut it down. Migraines are bad enough with the way they make bright light hurt the eyes and increase the headache pain, migraines sometimes cause temporary blurred vision or other temporary visual changes and I wish every site owner that so sadistically gets their kicks tormenting users with their stupid illegible illiterate nonsense strings called captchas, would have to experience having a bad migraine and having to try to look at the computer screen and figure out what word they were trying to spell with their distorted stupid mess & feel every bit of the pain and agony intensification that straining to read their crap causes.

    Migraines cause pain so bad that bright light hurts the eyes, a person can have nausea and vomiting and diarrhea with it, have a number of temporary changes in vision during the time the headache persists (and a migraine often persists for as long as 2 or 3 days before it lets up), and this stupid sadistic fad of tormenting people with captchas is just one more unnecessary thing that intensifies pain that already is so intense that if splitting your skull open with a brick would relieve the pain, you feel like you’d do it because it would hurt less than the migraine itself.

    If you look at how people used to write, spell and use grammar during the first half of the 20th century, you will find that present day writing, spelling, and grammar is vastly inferior to what you see in books or texts written back then.

    While spell checkers make plenty of mistakes, mostly due to their limitations and inability to distinguish between forms of words such as “too, two, to” or “there, they’re, their”, they are still vastly superior to these strings of nonsense captcha garbage.

    It’s totally pointless for someone to make horrible freehand writing attempt messes, when MS Paint provides for creating graphic text that is neat and readable. If you can’t write legibly, USE MS PAINT to type your nonsense captcha garbage so at least it will be readable. BETTER YET, LEARN HOW TO WRITE LEGIBLY AND SPELL PROPERLY.

    Before I was 3 years old, I knew how to read and could print simple words, REAL WORDS, that were MORE LEGIBLY PRINTED THAN THIS ILLEGIBLE CAPTCHA NONSENSE that has become such an insane site owner fad! I knew that words weren’t spelled with letters and numbers jumbled together, I already knew the correct usage of capital letters (which btw, is NOT to mix them up in the middle of a word!). Most halfway intelligent people at least master these basic skills by the time they are in first grade.

    This fad of site owners tormenting site users with the hell of trying to guess what these illegible strings of nonsense are supposed to actually spell, IS INSANE. What if everybody decided they would no longer write legibly or spell words correctly and made everyone else guess what a string of illegible nonsense garbage mess of letters and numbers jumbled together with capital letters tossed in anywhere within the mess, was supposed to actually mean? Nobody would be able to understand a damn thing anybody else was writing if we all followed this idiotic captcha fad. IF enough people happen to decide this stupid fad of site owners tormenting people with illegible illiterate nonsense garbage captcha hell is cool and start doing it too, in lieu of writing legibly or spelling words at least well enough that a reasonably literate person can make a guess that’s close to the word that it’s meant to actually be, ALL THIS STUPID FAD CAN POSSIBLY EVER LEAD TO IS TOTAL CHAOS!

    Shouldn’t literacy and the ability to write legibly be encouraged instead of discouraged or replaced by illiterate illegible nonsense? THE SOONER THIS IDIOTIC ILLITERATE ILLEGIBLE CAPTCAH NONSENSE FAD ENDS, THE BETTER!

    End Captcha Illiteracy

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