Ticketmaster, the world’s largest online ticket retailer, has grown wise. Rather than continuing to annoy users by requiring them to enter nearly illegible nonsense phrases in order to prove they’re human rather than a spamming robot, Ticketmaster has decided to stop using the Captcha system used by many online retailers. Instead, it will go with New York start-up Solve Media’s advertising-based system that deals with more natural speech.
Natural phrases, not garbled Captcha text
Ticketmaster’s shift in user authentication systems will require customers to type natural phrases that make sense, rather than nonsense words that are already difficult to read due to the visual disguising device Captcha uses.
Captcha, aka the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, was developed in 2000 by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. It refers to the work of pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, as well as material from Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The novel was adapted to the silver screen in 1982 by director Ridley Scott as the science fiction classic “Blade Runner.” In determining that a Ticketmaster user isn’t a spam robot, the Captcha test prevents blocks of event tickets from being purchased automatically.
Human users dislike Captcha
While some of the nonsense phrase pairings generated by Captcha have spawned comical conspiracy theory blogs, real people have tended to dislike not being able to easily complete an online transaction because of illegible Captcha text, says Aaron Young of online user experience consultancy Bunnyfoot.
“The major problem with them is that it’s not unusual for several attempts to be needed,” Young said. “So when people see them again on different websites they have negative expectations.”
Users with accessibility difficulties have had to depend upon the spoken command feature of Captcha, and that system has proven barely functional, according to various reports.
Solve Media to the rescue
Ticketmaster has partnered with New York start-up Solve Media to weed out spam bots from the system. Well-known phrases are requested for user input, or the answer to a simple multiple-choice question. But perhaps the most innovative part of the Solve Media system is that unlike Captcha, a sponsor advertisement can be used to facilitate the identification process. The user authentication system can display an ad, then require the human user to repeat back a short advertising slogan. It’s reportedly easier to use than Captcha, and keeps sponsors happy.
“We’re starting to see an uptick in fan satisfaction,” said Ticketmaster’s Kip Levin. “We’re happy with what we’ve seen from a security standpoint as well.”