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 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 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 78.

    Captcha is technically crude and extremely user-unfriendly. I won't use any sites which use this device. If we all did that the pesky thing would soon disappear.
    There have to be more intelligent ways of blocking 'robot' access.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It may be hated, but it reduced the amount of tout sales. People will now be able to write scripts to buy up lots of tickets to sell on at stupid prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I will generally attempt a Captcha once. After that I seek another site to purchase/view/etc the material I was seeking. Some of the Captcha images are essentially illegible, tend to contain multiple characters that seem to be fused together into unrecognizable masses, and other nonsense that makes the entire scheme a complete hastle. Find a legitimate way to ID humans, or we find other sites.


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