I am not a Robot! I think?

Being in an office, or at least post COVID19 on a Slack forum, with developers can be...well let us call it interesting. And today was just one of those days. 

While everyone is quiet, one of the developers from the Nimbl team smirked. Of course, someone asked "What?"

Well, he said. Surely a robot can figure out how to click the I'm not a robot checkbox.

He smirked again at the realization on everyone's face. If AI and robots can drive cars, fly planes and take us into space, surely it can complete the "I'm not a robot" check!

And know you are thinking it too!

So....how does it work?

A very short history

Just like internet bots themselves, and like much of the innovation on the internet, CAPTCHAs find their origin in the hacker community. Back in the ancient 1980s, hackers invented leetspeek to bypass security filtering on internet chat forums. Leet is a method of converting words to lookalike characters or abbreviations that cannot easily be interpreted by a computer:

  • leet > I33t
  • censored > c3n50red
  • porn (pornography) > pr0n

From this, some developers realized that a human can more easily decipher scrambled text than a computer. Well at least back then.

Jumping to 2003, a research team from Carnegie Mellon University published a pioneering research paper that described many different types of software programs that could distinguish humans from computers. It was this group that also coined the catchy acronym CAPTCHA.


As CAPTCHAs became a status quo of security on the Internet, Luis von Ahn, a member of the original research team, became increasingly uncomfortable with how much valuable time was being wasted on solving these mini puzzles. In a wonderful 2011 TED Talk, von Ahn estimated that humanity as a whole was wasting 500,000 hours a day on completing CAPTCHAs.

A problem that needed solving.

There were various versions of redoing and rethinking it but then, everyone's favorite big corporation stepped in.


Thanks, Google


We are fans of Google. Overlooking real concerns around data and privacy, what they have brought the world has made working much easier. Gmail, Chrome, Android and so much more. They are part of your everyday life and you are better of with it.

Captchas have evolved, with Google introducing increasingly subtle technological tricks to try and tell whether a user is or isn’t a human. That culminated in 2014 when it introduced the “No Captcha reCaptcha”. The form looks like a simple box: tick it to confirm that you aren’t a robot.

Unlike text-based Captchas, the mechanisms by which Google tells whether it’s dealing with a robot were deliberately obscured. The company said it employed “advanced risk analysis” software, which monitors things like how the user types, where they move their mouse, where they click, and how long it takes them to scan a page, all with the goal of working out which behaviors are human-like and which are too robotic.

If Google decides you aren’t human with its weird voodoo, it will now show you a collection of images and ask you to unwittingly train its machine-learning systems in various ways. Some users might be shown a grid full of animal pictures and be asked to select every cat (useful training for Google Photos’ ability to search through your pictures for keywords you provide); others might be shown a picture taken from a Street View car and asked to type in the door numbers of houses (useful for improving the accuracy of the company’s maps) or select every part of the image that contains road signs (useful for training the company’s self-driving cars). Still, others might be shown a picture of a military helicopter and asked to select all the squares that contain a helicopter (useful training for … well, probably for image recognition, but maybe for Google’s plan to take over the world with AI).

Ultimately, though, Google’s plan to remove the burden of Recaptcha altogether means that it got less and less of this information from end-users. But given the company’s scale, even the people who fail the invisible reCaptcha might well provide enough extra data to give Google’s AI plans yet more of a boost against the competition. Who knows, maybe the Invisible Captcha is also training an AI how to act like a human online?


Spare a thought for the developers


We all look at a website, or an app, or any piece of software. We don't know what goes in behind it. Its hours and hours, in fact, years and years of trying to find the right way and the best way of solving a problem you might have. Something as simple as "I am not a robot!" took almost since the beginning of MySpace to be solved to where you only have the check a checkbox.

Nimbl developers are at it every day, every hour to help you. To provide you with an eCommerce system second to none, but which is focussed and getting to where you only check a checkbox to have magic happening for you.

Be kind to developers



w3 10v3 7h3m

\/\/3 10\/3 7|-|3|\/|

\|/[- |_[]|/[- '|'#[-/\/\

For non developers, it means we love them!






Some information in this blog was taken from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/13/captcha-prove-not-a-robot-internet

Comments are closed