Ticketmaster dumps 'hated' Captcha verification system

  • 30 January 2013
  • From the section Technology
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Captcha screenshot
Image caption Say what? Users have been frustrated by having to figure out barely decipherable words

The world's largest online ticket retailer is to stop requiring users to enter hard-to-read words in order to prove they are human.

Captcha - which asks users to type in words to prove they are not robots trying to cheat the system - is used on many sites.

But Ticketmaster has moved to ditch it in favour of a simpler system.

It means users will write phrases, such as "freezing temperatures", rather than, for example, "tormentis harlory".

Captcha stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, and was first developed at Carnegie Mellon university in 2000.

For sites such as Ticketmaster, Captcha is used to make sure robots are not used to buy up tickets automatically.

'Most hated'

As these robots have become more sophisticated, Captcha has had to become more advanced in order to stay effective. But in the process, it has become more difficult for humans to understand.

"It is generally speaking the one of the most hated pieces of user interaction on the web," said Aaron Young, from user experience consultancy Bunnyfoot.

"The major problem with them is that it's not unusual for several attempts to be needed.

"So when people see them again on different websites they have negative expectations."

He told BBC News: "It's not going to be immediately extinguished. It's evolving into something easier."

A move away from Captcha would also be good news for users with accessibility difficulties, Mr Young added.

"Captcha has a spoken command, which meets to some degree the accessibility challenge, but it's still not ideal."


Ticketmaster is now using software created by New York start-up Solve Media, a similar service that asks for well-known phrases, or simple multiple choice questions.

Image caption Better? Ticketmaster is moving to use Solve Media's technology, which can also incorporate adverts

Solve Media's system can be used for advertising as well as user verification - and uses a combination of digital cues to work out whether a person is real or not.

Trials of the new system had shown positive signs, Ticketmaster said.

"We're starting to see an uptick in fan satisfaction," said Kip Levin, Ticketmaster's executive vice president of eCommerce.

"We're happy with what we've seen from a security standpoint as well."

He added that the average time to solve a Captcha puzzle was 14 seconds, while the new system was taking users an average of seven seconds to figure out.

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