When did reCAPTCHA become so maddeningly difficult and time-consuming?

I wanted to read Matthew Garrett’s post on Intel’s remote AMT vulnerability, but since I’m using Private Internet Access, Cloudflare has gated it behind reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA is much, much harder than it used to be. Although there seem to be a couple of other variants, nowadays you’re generally expected to identify squares that contain street signs and squares that contain mountains. Now either the answer key is regularly wrong, or I just don’t know what street signs and mountains are. You’d think the former… but there actually is a good degree of ambiguity in selecting which squares to tag.  Do I only tag all the squares that contain the signage-portion of the sign, or do I also tag the squares containing the signpost? (The former seems to work better, in my experience.) What if only a little bit of the sign extends into a particular square? (Jury’s out.) What if there are very distant signs in the background of the image, with many big signs in the foreground: should the distant signs be tagged too? And what constitutes a mountain anyway? Most of the “mountains” I see in the reCAPTCHA images look more like impressive hills to me. My guess is that reCAPTCHA wants me to tag any bit of elevated land as a mountain, but who knows, really.

Worse, once you tag some squares as signs or mountains, more squares appear in their places, making the captcha seem almost never-ending: you never know when you’ll finish. I dread each time new squares appear. I regularly find myself taking much too long to solve the captcha, often as much time as I would actually spend reading the gated content. Once I finish, I await the answer… “try again.” Which squares did I get wrong, Google? There’s no way to know. Back to start.

Today, for the first time that I can recall, I gave up after I was told to Try Again a few too many times in a row. I refreshed the page, thinking to try the captcha again… no luck this time, either. So congratulations, Google, on designing a usability nightmare captcha that can keep humans out. I know it has to be hard enough to make it difficult to solve with computer vision, but if humans can’t pass it, your captcha has failed. And so I am stuck reading Matthew’s article in Liferea.

Remember the days when all you had to do was spell out two words?

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