Are you a robot? Probably not, since you’re reading this article. Have you ever been asked to confirm “I’m not a robot” by putting a checkmark in the box?

It sounds silly to have to prove that you’re a human being. However, websites use this process to prevent spam and robot submissions. This tool is called CAPTCHA (which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).  And it’s pronounced like you are saying “capture” with a New York accent 😉

animated recaptcha

So What are Robots on the Internet?

First, let me explain what a robot is, also know as a “bot”.  A robot is a computer program that goes out on the internet and looks for forms to fill out. For example, a Contact Us form, or ‘Sign Up for My Newsletter’ opt-in, a comment on a blog post, etc.

So, the robots go out and opt-in because they want to spam you with their Viagra or other product they’re selling.  Their main goal is to get their marketing material to you or on your site as a comment submission. 

What is “CAPTCHA” Anyways?

You see, robots constantly crawl the web looking for forms to fill out. In order to prevent fake form submissions and spam comments, business owners add a CAPTCHA to their site. CAPTCHA asks the visitor to do something that only a human can do. 

A robot isn’t able to type in the wavy letter sequence. Nor click on images with oranges in them. Only humans have the cognitive ability to pass these tests. Consequently, CAPTCHA helps ensure that humans are submitting the form, not a robot.

If you encounter something like this, don’t be afraid. Go ahead and do what they are asking. Though it can be annoying, CAPTCHAs improve the overall internet experience for everyone. In addition, they free up businesses to focus on serving their clients, without having to deal with a lot of fake communications.

Frequently Used CAPTCHAs:

There are several types of common CAPTCHAs. You may be asked to type in the squiggly letters, as in this example.  

recaptch box example

Some CAPTCHAs show really small thumbnail images. Then, they ask you to select the images with bridges, statues, bicycles, storefronts, etc. This type of CAPTCHA is an image classification question.

recaptcha box with images of oranges                example of a captcha box with motorbuses 

Sometimes, we’re asked to do simple math (time to brush up on your addition facts!). If you go to my contact form on the Website Creation Workshop and you’ll see the math problem at the bottom. This contact form I created with the Divi Theme. Many themes, including Divi, have theme documentation.   Here is an article on how to add reCaptcha to a Divi website

contact form

Here’s a Fun, Short, Simple Video to Explain What is Captcha:

If you’re interested in more of the history behind CAPTCHA and Google’s ReCAPTCHA evolution, check out this interesting video below.


The Downside of a CAPTCHA Form

CAPTCHA does have some negative aspects. First, it can be difficult for people to read the CAPTCHA code and cause user frustration. Consequently, some visitors will immediately leave the website if they see a CAPTCHA. 

And unfortunately, it’s not foolproof. Robots are getting smarter, and CAPTCHA isn’t a perfect solution. 

CAPTCHA Options for Your Website

ReCAPTCHA is Google’s version of CAPTCHA. It’s a free spam protection service that you can add to your website. There are three different versions, each requiring a different level of human interaction. For more of the technical details about ReCAPTCHA, check out this article

HCaptcha is an alternative to Google’s ReCAPTCHA. It’s focused on user privacy and only collects necessary. In short, consider this option if you’d prefer not to use a Google product. 

Honeypot is a spam blocking alternative to CAPTCHA. It runs in the background and does not require the website user to do anything. A honeypot is built into some form plugins already, like Ninja Forms.

Here’s how it works. A honeypot is a special hidden field that humans can’t complete. Since bots are designed to complete every field, they reveal themselves as a robot when they complete the “honeypot” field. As a result, their submissions are kicked out of the system. 

Should You Have CAPTCHA on Your Website?

Are you getting a lot of spam now from people coming to your website? If you’re a business owner and have had a problem with spam, consider adding a CAPTCHA.  Visitors will understand that you’re helping to improve your business and the overall internet experience.

Note: the steps to add a CAPTCHA to your WordPress website will depend on which form plugin or email marketing provider you are using.

If you have a website and don’t encounter much spam, be grateful! And don’t worry about adding a CAPTCHA.

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