Monday, February 27, 2006

To Code or Not to Code

In a rush to secure their websites from loathsome spammers, companies have introduced a security system that has angered another segment of the population — advocates for the visually impaired, observes David Kesmodel in his article “Codes on Sites ‘Captcha’ Anger of Web Users,” from The Wall Street Journal.

Captcha forces users to type in a code of distorted and scrambled letters to gain access to websites such as Yahoo Mail and in order to protect them from spammers who make up lots of email accounts or buy dozens of tickets for scalpers.

Captcha is short for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. The system was inspired by mathematician Alan Turing, a code breaker and pioneer of artificial intelligence, who developed a test in which a person in one room would ask questions of another person and a computer in another room and try to determine which one was human.

Organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium have advocated for the development of more palatable alternatives to captcha so vulnerable customers, such as those who are visually impaired, dyslexic, or have short term memory problems, are not needlessly excluded.

Companies with captcha counter that the solution represents the most effective balance between accessibility and protecting themselves against automated malicious attacks.

When it comes to accessibility some companies have been more accommodating than others. News website simplified the backdrop of its captcha code from multicolored to gray and allows users to type capital or lowercase versions of the scrambled letter codes. Google added an audio captcha for its email service.

When you are developing new systems for your company try to ensure that everyone has equal access to them and you will build a stronger business.

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