Microsoft patents advert-based CAPTCHAs

August 28, 2009 | 10:02

Tags: #patent #spammer

Companies: #microsoft

If you're of the opinion that you don't get enough opportunities to view adverts whilst doing your daily rounds of the web, rejoice: a patent application from Microsoft could be just what you're after.

As described by Fudzilla, the patent covers the novel creation of an advertising-themed CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) which could be integrated into websites in the place of existing systems such as the popular reCAPTCA.

Where the system differs is not in the overall aim - which is to prevent automated systems from spamming forums and webmail systems - but in the additional benefits: reCAPTCHA uses the opportunity of a captive audience to improve the accuracy of a single word which has been scanned and run through an OCR system in the creation of electronic books; Microsoft's patent pending system, on the other hand, attempts to ensure that a site visitor is really paying attention to your carefully targetted advertising.

Instead of a scrambled word which has to be typed accurately, visitors to sites running the system will be presented with pictures, musical jingles, or slogans. In order to pass the CAPTCHA, users will be asked to correctly name the featured product or provide some supplemental information from the advert.

From an advertising perspective, it's a neat trick: if the user wants to participate in the site, they have no choice but to fill in the CAPTCHA and consciously take note of the fact that Pepsi really is the taste of a new generation. With that sort of proof that visitors are not only visiting pages containing your advertising but actively looking at it, Microsoft's patent could generate a lot of interest.

From the perspective of your average web denizen, it's not so good a deal. CAPTCHAs are awkward, clumsy things made bearable only by the good they do - keeping spammers at bay - and by the fact that they take a mere handful of seconds to complete. If you're asked to sit through a fifteen-second sales pitch before you can prove you're human, it's going to be difficult to justify the time spent.

So far there is no indication from Microsoft as to where or when it plans to implement this technology.

Does the idea of an advertising-based CAPTCHA fill you with rage, or is it a neat idea for the site operators to get a bit of extra cash while keeping the spammers out? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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