Google CAPTCHAs Nearly Blocked Me from Completing Work

One task on today’s to-do list was to set up a Google group for a client to discuss migrating the organization’s static site to WordPress. I haven’t used Google groups, but I have previously used Yahoo groups. Setting up a group in Google shouldn’t be that much different.

The first step required basic information: the group’s name, a brief description and an access level. Once done, I hit the “Create my group” button and was presented with a CAPTCHA for verification purposes:


Are you kidding me? With my once perfect vision whose only impairment is being forty-four years old, I could not make out most of the garbled letters, even after tilting my head in various directions.

After a few moments, I decided to click on the wheelchair icon to give the audio CAPTCHA a shot. From previous experience I knew audio versions were equally garbled, but I figured it couldn’t be much more undecipherable than this image of garbled letters – or what I assumed were letters.

Much to my surprise, I was presented with:

Google CAPTCHA with the message "Sorry, we are unable to handle your request at this time, please try again later."

What? Unable to handle my request at this time? What does that mean? All I requested was the audio CAPTCHA. I don’t want to try again later; I want to finish this task now. How is coming back later equal access?

I typed in my best guess. Obviously my guess was wrong because I was presented with a second CAPTCHA:


Again my middle-aged eyes could not decipher the distorted characters. Again the audio CAPTCHA was not available. Again I typed in a guess. Again I was wrong.

Had this frustration been required for submitting a blog comment, submitting an information request or ordering a purchase, I would have muttered “Forget it!”, closed the tab and not returned, ever!

But, this was legitimate work for a long-tem client. I had to complete this task. Again I tried:

Google CAPTCHAThe third time I hit the jackpot: the group was verified, finally. But this process should not be more challenging than winning in Vegas!

These darn things might be stopping most bots from proceeding, but how many humans are also blocked? There has to be another way to treat humans humanly while keeping out spammy bots!

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10 Responses to Google CAPTCHAs Nearly Blocked Me from Completing Work
  1. Pattie
    November 13, 2010 | 9:43 pm

    OMG even that last one is unreadable to my 40-year-old eyes. I HATE those things. It usually takes me several tries and most of the time I do end up giving up. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Deborah Ng and Glenda Watson Hyatt , Miss Dazey. Miss Dazey said: Yes! RT @GlendaWH: Dang garbled letters…Google CAPTCHAs Nearly Blocked Me from Completing Work [...]

  3. Bob Easton
    November 14, 2010 | 6:19 am

    Hear here!!!!

    This is my number one complaint with many things Google, especially BLOGGER.

    It is very well known that CAPTCHAs are a total block for the blind and almost total for visually impaired. Providers think the audio link is their saving grace, but, as you found, is often broken.

    What is not very well known (and I can no longer find the reference) was shown in a study sometime around 2007. That study showed CAPTCHAs having a 19-20% failure rate for people with no disabilities.

    Has anyone yet studied the situation you had, or that many of us have all too often, the need to ask for yet another CPATCHA before finding one we can decipher? Add those as failures, and the failure rate for CAPTCHAs becomes astounding!

    The last nail in the CAPTCHA coffin is that, as a coding device, they were “broken” many years ago. There are plenty of CAPTCHA deciphering bots that breeze right through them.

    GOOGLE – Are you listening? CAPTCHAs ARE A FAILURE! (Yes, I’m shouting!) Do you care? When are you going to do something about it? While I’m asking Google questions… Does Google have a dedicated Accessibility team that has executive level visibility and funding? Yahoo does.

    On the positive side, there are alternatives. One of the best is collaborative filtering, such as the wildly successful AKISMET filter used by many WordPress bloggers. There are also other mechanisms, such as question puzzles, for separating humans from spam bots.

    It is long past time to rid the world of CAPTCHAs.

  4. Bob Easton
    November 14, 2010 | 7:22 am

    While not the study I was remembering (referred to in my previous comment), a study by people at Stanford University assessed the human failure rate (not the bot failure or success rate) of many varieties of scrambled word CAPTCHAs, both visual and aural.

    While they found an overall success rate of 93% (would you like losing 7% of your business?), they also found some visual systems having success rates as low as 71% and some aural systems having success rates as low as 31%.

    Find the study at this link:

  5. Barbara
    November 14, 2010 | 7:37 am

    Not that I question getting rid of ALL CAPTCHA I remind y’all that it is an individually-placed feature of all sites. In other words, bloggers have a choice as to whether or not to add it.

    So educating the public is as important as educating the evil CAPTCHA-promoters. As a means of protecting oneself from the evermore evil spam, CAPTCHA might live-on in urban legend perpetuity. Alas.

    Meantime, I have become a convert to its demise and will forevermore preach your gospel, Glenda. Or at least cheerlead from the sidelines!

  6. Karen Mardahl
    November 22, 2010 | 10:51 am

    Ugh! Those are awful CAPTCHAs. I think my record was 8 one day. I got stubborn and wanted to win the fight, which is why I didn’t walk away. (I don’t remember what it was for.)

  7. Melinda
    November 29, 2010 | 1:57 pm

    i hate those things…

  8. Roberto Shockley
    February 4, 2011 | 5:09 pm

    I am legally blind, epileptic, narcoleptic and bipolar. In my life there are already numerous obstacles I have to face daily – I do not need Google throwing my disabilities in my face by making their service unavailable to me. My work depends on their site, which I cannot now use without another person hand-holding through your ridiculous and descriminatory security measures. Today was the first day I was faced with the “CAPTCHA” protection on Gmail. As useful as Google has been to me, I will abandon its use completely and recommend all disabled people follow suit. Off to Yahoo!

  9. Death to Captchas - Webmaster Forum
    February 5, 2011 | 12:05 am

    [...] [...]

  10. Captcha Monster
    June 6, 2011 | 2:37 pm

    There is a new Firefox add-on which automatically fills CAPTCHA tests. It doesn’t require any interaction from a user and solves most of CAPTCHAs within 9 seconds.

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