What Is a CAPTCHA Code?

Here's Why You Need to Enter Those Silly Codes on Websites

Typing on Keyboard
Photo © Andrew Brookes / Getty Images

If you've ever tried to register with a website or comment on a blog and been asked to enter some crazy characters that have been all jumbled up, you know how frustrating it can sometimes be to tell a lower case L from a number 1 or an uppercase O from a number 0.

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 letters and why do we have to type them into the website to move forward?

CAPTCHA Explained

Those crazy codes are called CAPTCHA, and they are a human response test. The word is actually an acronym for: "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."

The reasoning behind why websites implement CAPTCHA codes into their registration processes is because of 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's well worth it in the long run. Anyone who has ever set up their own website or blog will get a taste of what spam is like up close and personal just weeks after going online — even if that website or blog has next to no traffic whatsoever.

Those spammers find little websites and blogs fast and target them because they often don't have much security to protect them.

If a site or blog owner didn't use some type of protection like CAPTCHA against it, they would be getting dozens of spam registrants or comments a day. And that's just for small websites and personal blog that aren'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.

Next recommended article: 10 URL Shorteners to Shorten Long Links

Updated by: Elise Moreau