Archive: Feb 2012

  1. Why do sites ask “are you a human”?

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    Search Twitter for “are you a human” and it is clear people do not know why sites annoy them with this question.  What are these sites thinking?  Are they getting attacked by aliens, vacuum cleaners, or unicorns?

    While that may be the case (how will we ever know?), there are two reasons why sites ask their users this simple yet annoying question:

    Since the very beginning of the Internet, spam has been around.  Fun history fact: the first recorded electronic version was sent via Western Union in 1864.  It is now a known annoyance on the Internet, like animated GIFs and Justin Beiber.  Even more fun, spam comes in many forms.  There’s email spam, comment spam, IM spam; pick a technology and there is probably a little spam mixed in.

    Sites also need to protect certain assets on the Internet.  Think about the last time you wanted to buy awesome concert tickets.  How quickly did they sell out?  This can happen with anything that has an expiring value.  Scalpers are out there to buy up the good stuff quickly and then resell it at inflated prices.  It ruins the experience for the artist, the fans, and the ticket seller.

    There is one additional reason why sites like to insist on asking this question: anonymity.  But I’ll save that for another post.

    Sites don’t hate you.  They do, in fact, love you and your business/attention/time.  There is just a tidal wave of junk that sites must defend against, and sites ask “are you a human” as a shield.

    They can, however, make the experience better than CAPTCHA…