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In my line of work I have to verify that I am indeed a human numerous times per day. It’s not unreasonable to use captcha, although you sometimes have to reload time after time because the deformity of the words makes them illegible. That is all about to end though as we enter the era heralded by a company called Nucaptcha, it’s captcha, with adverts! Instead of sitting scratching you head trying to figure out it that’s a b or p you watch a short advertising presentation and then you’ll be asked to identify and retype a part of the message to proceed.
Most of us use tools which block pop ups and other forms of adverts so advertising agencies are forced to come up with new ideas of how they can present their message to us. As they put it in their promo video it is a “new revenue opportunity; premium ad rate; engagement = recall” But why do we use popup blockers? Sure it prevents malware introducing itself to your machine and unwanted windows appearing in front of the thing you wanted to look at with irrelevant rubbish but surely another reason we don’t want it is because people generally don’t like advertising, at least they don’t like it the way it exists at present. There are some good adverts around, some that are interesting and artistic, intelligent and well produced but for every one of those, how many are there that make you want to throw something hard and heavy at the TV screen/monitor/radio because they are badly made, clumsy, lack-witted insults to the intelligence?
I used to think it was coincidence that all of the advertising occurs at seven minutes then twenty minutes past the hour on every commercial TV station across the Freeview system. Then I gave it a moment’s thought and concluded otherwise. Because the viewer hates advertising they surf as soon as the adverts begin so if there are only adverts available, instead of not being subjected to the sponsors’ messages they are actually increasing the number of adverts they see. If an ad lasts 30 seconds we’ll see six in a three minute ad break, if we surf and spend around 5 seconds on each ad we’ll still see enough of the message to absorb it but in those 3 minutes we’ll now see approximately 36 commercial messages.
So Nucaptcha has become what captch was invented to defeat. While it stops robots getting into spaces where they could generate copious amounts of spam it still has the capability of sneaking at least one little paid message in every time it is used.
Of course they see it differently; they claim that it’s all about security and user friendliness. With their animation the text is clearer than the deformed text of yore which makes Nucaptcha easier to use. It just happens to be a platform where advertisers pay to put a message. And it’s not subtle either. If you hated having to click away from or close every new popup this is going to drive you intercontinental styles of ballistic. If you do miss the text on the first go round you have to wait until it comes around again while a really distracting video plays out.
It seems 100 billion (US) captchas were solved in 2009 and that number is only set to increase as more and more people have access to the web globally. Depending on the size and length of the video, Nucaptcha will charge their clients between $0.10 and $1.00 per event. The company started operations in June 2010 and is embedded in 3,500 websites at the time of writing. 5 million captchas solved in September and it looks like double that for October. I’m not against their chutzpah, they’ve been going less than six months and already their clients include Electronic Arts, Disney and Activision among others. Advertisers in the automotive, financial and entertainment markets have also expressed interest but can we hope that the Nucaptchas will be suited to the website that they are embedded in or can we expect to see annoying, untargeted advertising every time we have to prove we’re human and, by implication, a revenue stream?