Captchas are so 2007. There are enough good captcha-breaking bots in the wild now that they’re pushing 10-15% success rates at decoding images, and can generate a new attempt every six seconds. Mail systems at Yahoo!, GMail and Hotmail all have been cracked in the past year. And Google’s Blogger service is under seige from spambots creating hundreds of thousands of splogs without human interaction — and they’re doing it through automated captcha cracking.
A new visual authentication system called IMAGINATION, from Penn State’s ALIPR (Automatic Linguistic Indexing of Pictures) program, takes a very different approach. Working with random images rather than characters means the pool of possibilities is not finite (image recognition is far more difficult than character recognition). And the two-part process refines the human requirement further: Find a center, then describe.
But while traditional captchas have had problems with accessibility, ALIPR is going to be completely off-limits to the blind. Oh, and it takes up a whole screen, rather than a few hundred pixels2. That sounds like a deal-breaker right there. Or at least a deal-breaker until we get so fed up with being cracked that interaction designers are willing to give up an entire page to make it stop.
Once you solve the captcha, the site invites you to throw your best bot at it. I’m thinking maybe five years before the bots crack this one.