As part of our hosting and security commitment to our clients we have recently completed the roll out of Google reCaptcha version 3 to all WordPress websites that we manage and host, this has been completed free of charge to all our hosting clients.
For a few decades users have had to complete a challenge on a website before submitting a form, in version 1 this was jumbled letters, version 2 was a tickbox that sometimes displayed a series of photos to pick from. The very latest captcha in version 3 detects if you are human by a score of 0.0 to 1.0 and making a decision on what to do.
It is a closely guarded secret how this actually works, from the user perspective nothing will have happened, no tedious question will need to be answered or completed, all the user sees is the Google reCaptcha logo protecting the website.
Websites have been plagued for a long time by bots that scrape email addresses and content, post spam and, more recently, try to brute-force user passwords on a huge scale attempting to break into a website.
A version called reCaptcha was bought by Google back in 2009, this was a free service for websites and added more complicated visual puzzles for visitors to solve before something could be submitted, many users will have seen the “select all images with a street sign” puzzle squares.
Users to websites hated this, worse still was that bots and scammers eventually found simple ways to beat it including paying real humans to fill in the Captchas.
In 2014, reCaptcha version 2 went live and the “I’m not a robot” tick box was implemented with the claimed innovation that it studied the user’s “entire engagement” with the website to distinguish between friend and foe.
Finally, in 2016, Google announced an invisible reCaptcha being the first appearance of the technology that turned into reCaptcha v3 more recently.
There are two advances here, more sophisticated bot detection completed courtesy of Google’s magic cloud and a lot more control for website owners as to how they can fine-tune the API.
From the point of view of the website visitor, version 3 means that reCaptchas have gone from complex tests to tick boxes to something users shouldn’t even be aware of. Gone are the days of proving you are a human, Google has found a way of doing this itself making life alot easier for users, without compromising security.