Ticketmaster dumps 'hated' Captcha verification system

Captcha screenshot Say what? Users have been frustrated by having to figure out barely decipherable words

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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.

Start Quote

It is generally speaking the one of the most hated pieces of user interaction on the web”

End Quote Aaron Young Usability expert

"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.

Solve Media Captcha box 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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  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    what many people are not aware of is that reCAPTCHA has actually been used to support the digitalization of books. So the 10 (or 14 seconds…) that are needed to fill out the captchas are not wasted but make millions of books accessible online! It is an unprecedented form of online collaboration. From that point of view, it is a bit sad that this is happening. We lose really valuable inputs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Surely the easy solution is what the BBC has in their weekly quiz or on HIGNFY - missing words round. Ticketmaster dumps hated ____ ? Answers: tickets, captcha, punters, website.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    There are much better and more usable solutions to Captcha (which is completely rubbish IMHO - because 50% of generated images are unreadable by humans let alone comnputers)

    All web site owners please follow Ticketmasters lead and ditch this awful implementation of what was basically a good idea..

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    CAPTCHAs don't have to be complex. On a few websites, we tried all types of fancy CAPTCHAs to stop robots. The one that finally worked, perfectly, was incredibly simple: a stupid question like this:

    To help stop spammers, please type the word "owl":

    That's it. No fancy graphics, nothing complex to work out, no long tiresome typing; it takes about a second to work out.

    Unless you're a robot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I don't particularly like Captcha but think the reCaptcha project was an excellent idea to benefit from people's torment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    201. Type17
    almost 100%
    +1ed you, not because the idea is good, but because you made your own security. It sounds as weak as my favourite ale, but what makes it good is that it's more or less unique to your site. If you promote it and 100,000 other sites copy it, it'll be worth writing a bot for.

    I see Wikipedia already records the obvious optical flow issue with nucaptcha...

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    The problem is most folk who are elderly or young cannot distinguish O 0 or iIlL in captcha and with stupid hard to read colours, pink on grey, it is not usable. The sinple ones asking for straight numbers are better (but may not pass a robot proof test ) or those that ask for addition subtraction etc easy to read logic to answer for those with good eyesight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    I don't know what the issue is with captcha. I fill them in frequently and probably have about a 80% success rate, which means there's almost 100% chance I'll get it by the second attempt.

    I once had £1500 worth of football tickets bought fraudulently through my account (fortunately refunded by the bank). Security matters, so who cares if it takes a whole 10 seconds to fill in a captcha?

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Now all they need to do is stop ticket touts buying up all the tickets and selling them on at mega inflated prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Captcha is really outdated, the easiest method is the moving video letters from nucaptcha. A demo can be seen here: http://www.nucaptcha.com/demo Or here: http://frontiereconomy.com/wp-login.php

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    I wonder if there's any pressure from people involved in products like Siri to make security checks less difficult?

    "Order me some tickets from Ticketmaster for the AppleFans gig"
    "I can't, they use a CAPTCHA"
    "OK, order me tickets from the site with the least broken weak security"
    :phone heats:
    "Done, they should be delivered by Friday"
    "Your bank balance is dropping by £1,000 per minute"

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Despite - user resgistration - Email verification...
    Credit card - information..

    ticket master still insist on Captcha..

    Someone has Lost the Design plot..

    p.s : BBC can we have some real reporting .. not Brainwashing..please.

    Now tell me .. When cameroon flew to algeria - in that plane-where there - merchants of WAR / weapons (BAE)..did he..I want bang for my Buck..You See..More Insanity

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I also hate Captcha - is is often too hard to read. The best ones are where you are required to answer a question - like what is Two and Three.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    A web forum I use had terrible trouble with bots signing in and spamming, until the admins wrote a script which shows potential registrants thumbnail pictures of multiple red cars with one blue car placed randomly in the mix - users are instructed to click on the blue car to continue - bot registrations have dropped by almost 100%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Everything on a commercial website should meet international standards for legibility. Period. If it doesn't, it is discriminatory.
    Captcha is not compliant with W3 standards, and can’t be used by people with quite mild eye problems

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Uptick - my new all-time favourite word. Bwahahahaha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    What is an "uptick"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    I hate CAPTCHAs; and it actually happens that it was while I was trying, (and failing), to buy concert tickets on my phone that I decided to devote myself to finding a replacement for CAPTCHAS. I'm not allowed to promote it here, but I'm proud of the result, and I'm very glad to see that companies like TicketMaster are starting to pay more attention to the quality of the user experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Ticket companies buy their own tickets and sell them on at twice the price anyway, Captcha did nothing to stop that! Why don't ticketmaster do something useful like preventing such scams and reducing the 30% fees on every ticket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Of course, the simplest solution is to go back pre internet days, simple postal application with number limits.....worked well for very popular gigs, and stopped the frustration of on-line sell-outs in nano seconds with no-one able to access ticketmaster....saw many popular bands this way.....


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