Fast Company

Captchas Now 100% More Annoying With Video Ads

Captcha code

By now we're grudgingly accustomed to those Captcha code boxes popping up online to verify we're humans and not bots. Thanks to moves by a firm called NuCaptcha, those boxes you see may soon contain unavoidable video ads.

NuCaptcha has been around for a few years, offering a unique portal for advertisers: A tiny pop-up movie that gets displayed when a user needs to type in a Captcha code to a website to verify their status. The Captcha codes in this system are actually shown as part of the video clip (not like the static warped-text images you're probably used to), meaning clients have to actually watch the clip to gain access to the code. So it's an evolution of the Captcha thinking "prove you're a human by detecting the complex shapes of letters in this distorted image" into one that's more like "prove you're a human by watching this advert and identifying the distorted text displayed therein."

NuCaptcha has just launched a new system that could see its business rapidly expanding: A new self-service portal for brand-managers and website publishers. This is a villainously brilliant move. It turns the process of adding a video capture window to your site into a mere sequence of clicks and presses, rather than having to organize a contract individually with a host company and so on. NuCaptcha has even worked out content creation; it's easy to turn the plethora of video ads that already exist online into Captcha-encoded ones with the ReCaptcha system.

The base-level system is free to publishers, offering up to 25,000 NuCaptcha events per month--premium levels are also on offer, and by paying for them you get deeper access to the platform, and more data fed back to you.

NuCaptchas do potentially offer an enhanced security service over traditional Captcha codes--using an automated system to pick a mangled Captcha code from within an advert clip is a more difficult technical prospect than trying to un-warp the text in a regular, static image one...and this will make the system more attractive to some site owners who are desperate to keep the 'bots at bay. NuCaptcha even claims its system is more appreciated by users who find the traditional variant more frustrating. It's a novel approach to generating income from a system that many people would otherwise overlook, and if it transforms Captchas from irritations into momentary distractions then it'll earn plenty of applause.

But NuCaptcha faces two potential hurdles. First, the user experience of being forced to watch a tiny ad movie just so you can log in to a site may very quickly become beyond infuriating--and it could potentially persuade people to abandon the process before it's finished (if they're the quick-to-be-bored sort). And then there's the potential for Captchafails... the accidental juxtaposition of an unfortunate Captcha word and the page it's advertising--Coke famously apologized to one consumer who faced a code that looked for all the world like "u f**ker". A video Captchafail would seem to have even more scope for inappropriate scenarios.

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