I, like most SE users, am occasionally presented with a CAPTCHA to prove I'm human for one of any number of reasons. At the time of this writing there are 247 questions and 342 answers on Meta regarding CAPTCHAs and such questions often appear on the Community Bulletin (one appeared today which is what prompted this request). If I could search by emotion, I'm guessing the majority would be tagged .

On Monday, Google announced that an algorithm they have developed can solve reCAPTCHA with a 99.8% success rate. Searching around for studies indicating human solve success rate all indicate percentages less than that (for audio CAPTCHAs much less than that). This is no longer a valid method for determining if a user is human.

The answer to the highest rated Meta question on CAPTCHAs indicated that the SE staff were "heavily discussing this issue" and "agree that the current state of affairs sucks big-time" back in August 2012. Considering the advancement of a computer's ability to solve CAPTCHAs since then, I think it's about time for an alternative.

I'm not claiming to have a definitive answer but suggestions are, of course, welcome.

And I understand that polishing the meta split is probably priority right now, but can we at least get this on the docket?

  • 6
    This would just mean that someone controlling a bot would need to log the bot in manually, before it went off botting. That's not really much of a deterrent at stopping what this is designed to stop.
    – Servy
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Servy As I said, I don't claim to have a solution. Just that the current system is no longer valid. It is easier for a computer to solve a CAPTCHA than a human. Apr 17, 2014 at 14:42
  • 3
    Until there is significant evidence that captchas are routinely circumvented causing an influx of crap, I'm not sure a whole lot needs to happen.
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:45
  • 3
    @Bart But what about the inconvenience to actual humans who routinely complain of the difficulty? Apr 17, 2014 at 14:46
  • 7
    Hang around on Meta for a while. We routinely complain about a lot of things. ;)
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:47
  • 1
    Besides, at this point aren't some spammers using actual meatbags for their nefarious purposes?
    – Mike G
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:49
  • 2
    The computer for which it's easier is a computer by the very maintainers of reCAPTCHA ...
    – user98085
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:49
  • Would be interesting to see how many attempts and the precentange that are stoped by captha stop at time of submission.
    – Joe W
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


Captchas' primary function is to serve as a deterrent.

Practically since their creation, there have always been bots out there capable of solving captchas, and there always will be. Even if a bot can solve 20% of captchas, it can just refresh until it gets one that it sees.

The real purpose, though, is to make it inordinately difficult to write code for. Implementing a captcha-solver isn't fun, and people have better things to do with their time than get around the auto-edit checks.

That's why captchas are still effective. It doesn't matter that people can break it - it's still just as effective a deterrent as it has been. Nobody wants to bother for something like suggested edits.

  • 2
    The problem is that when captcha's give human users more of a problem then they give bot's which means they go against the purpose of making it harder for a bot to post then a real human.
    – Joe W
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:14
  • 1
    @Joe Not really - someone still has to invest a lot of time writing and implementing bots, and let's be honest, who's going to bother for suggested edits? That's the real point: it's not supposed to be hard, it's supposed to be a deterrent.
    – user206222
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:17
  • From my understanding when people create a bot to break captcha the bot will work on thousands of sites not just an individual site. Maybe I am wrong about how the SE network handles captcha but I wouldn't assume they have developed a captcha system that would be different enough from others out there that a general bot can't break it.
    – Joe W
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:39
  • That is true, and as a result, SE need only deal with a handful of people.
    – user206222
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:47

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