If you have ever tried to register with a website or comment on a blog and been asked to enter some crazy letters that have been all jumbled up, you know how frustrating it can sometimes be to tell an L from a 1 or a J from an I.
I know. I've been there. I've sat up and peered at the computer screen trying to figure out if the offset line was supposed to be the curl of a J or the straight line of an I. And I've muttered under my breath how they should just take the similar-looking letters out of the algorithm to save me the frustration.
So, what are those crazy letter and why do we have to type them in?
They are called CAPTCHA, and they are a human response test.
The reason websites have CAPTCHA is spam. Those crazy letters are a way to check if the person registering or trying to comment is a real live human being as opposed to a computer program attempting to spam the site. Yes, it's the same reason most of us have some form of spam blocker on our email.
Spam is the modern day equivalent of junk mail. But, if the spammers were in charge, the junk mail wouldn't just be in your mailbox or tied to your doorknob. It would litter your yard, bury the car parked in your driveway, plaster every side of your house, and cover your roof.
And, while it is frustrating to continually be asked to enter in tangled letters from an image, it is well worth it in the long run. I run a blog, so I have seen the spam up close and personal. If I didn't use some type of protection like CAPTCHA against it, I would be getting dozens of spam comments a day. And my personal blog isn't very popular. I can only imagine what the popular blogs must see.
So, next time you run up against one of those images and get a little frustrated trying to tell a Q from an O, just remember not to vent your frustration at the website. Focus it on the spammers, because they are the reason we have to squint at our screen almost every time we want to register at a new website.