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CAPTCHA, an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” is a short challenge-response test used on websites to verify that the user in question is human and thereby deter spambots.
The method of using computer-generated strings of letters to verify a client computer was patentedby Mark D. Lillibridge, Martin Abadi, Krishna Bharat and Andrei Z. Broder of Compaq Computer Corporation in April 1998. The term “CAPTCHA” was coined two years later by researchers Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum and Nicholas J. Hopper from Carnegie Mellon University and John Langford of IBM in 2000. The team eventually went on to publish a paper on the success of the test in 2003. As of August 2013, the most popular version of the test is the reCAPTCHA, which uses images pulled from books and newspapers being digitized.
On August 1st, 2013, visually impaired Australian man Wayne Hawkins launched a Change.org petition directed toward the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, eBay, Twitter, Yelp and Facebook asking that they remove CAPTCHA tests from their websites. In the petition, Hawkins cites a 2005 study released by the World Wide Web Consortium declaring the CAPTCHA system a detriment to visually impaired, elderly, color-blind and Dyslexic internet users. Within six days, the petition gained more than 1,100 signatures.
By August 5th, a number of Australian nonprofit organizations including Blind Citizens Australia, Media Access Australia, Able Australia, the Australian Deaf-Blind Council and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network announced their support of the petition. The same day, a number of news and tech blogs covered the movement including the Sydney Morning Herald, IT News, Lifehacker Australia and TechSpot. The following day, Lifehacker Australia explained why an audio CAPTCHA does not solve the accessibility problem, as they can often be distorted (shown below, left) or it can be hard to discern the words from the background noise (shown below, right).
Also on the 6th, The Daily Dot noted that it was not the first time the blind community has gone up against the CAPTCHA system. In May 2013, the National Federation for the Blind launched a petition to get the United States to support an international treaty that would allow libraries and schools that serve the blind to republish any books in an accessible format without having to get permission from the copyright holder. Though the Federation had more than 50,000 registered members at the time, the petition only received 8,000 signatures, presumably because CAPTCHAs made the site inaccessible.
CAPTCHArt is a word-image association game that involves drawing comics or photoshopping images inspired by a word pair randomly generated by CAPTCHA. One of the earliest threads dedicated to this type of artwork was posted on the Something Awful forums in May 2009. Many of these submissions were featured on the Something Awful front page in a Photoshop Phriday post that July. Captchart saw a resurgence in July 2010 when CAPTCHAs were added to 4chan.
Inglip is a figure in Internet folklore who communicates solely through CAPTCHA images. On January 8th, 2011, a Redditor shared a rage comic with the randomly generated CAPTCHA “inglip summoned” (shown below). Throughout 2011, the legend grew as members of the rage comics subreddit /r/fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu used new CAPTCHAs to generate more information about the character, including the name of his followers (gropagas) and his kingdom on earth (Trathira). The character is depicted as the OMG Rage Face wearing a red hood.
Google Patents – Method for selectively restricting access to computer systems
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