Google acquires reCaptcha for undisclosed sum

By Justin Mann on September 17, 2009, 3:15 PM
If you've been on the Internet for longer than five minutes, you've surely encountered a CAPTCHA. As one of the most popular methods to prevent bot registrations, automated messages and cutting down on spam, CAPTCHAs are a source of both controversy and joy for users and administrators everywhere.

One service, reCaptcha, has sought to not only help people cut down on bots but also improve OCR (optical character recognition) software. The free service has become quite popular since its inception, and ended up being quite attractive to some, namely Google.

The search-giant has acquired reCaptcha for $500 to $700 million an undisclosed sum, which many believe is a positive move for both sides. Google is gaining a powerful anti-bot tool, which it definitely needs to reduce clutter on its various services. Meanwhile, reCaptcha can benefit from having a wealthy benefactor like Google to aid in future development.

Some have claimed that reCaptcha is a self-defeating service. If you teach computers to read more effectively, CAPTCHA technology, by its very nature, becomes less useful -- which may lead one to conclude that Google's aim isn't to improve anti-bot technologies.

Instead, Google may put it to use in their own OCR endeavors. It's very likely that Google wants to capitalize on reCaptcha to improve their book scanning project. Still, in the short term that will serve only to help reCaptcha, since they will probably receive a considerable cash infusion to spurn development.

User Comments: 7

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Guest said:

Where did the $500MM-$700MM source come from? Article cited referred to that as a rumored price for brightcove.

Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

You are right. We misread the linked source and have since corrected the post. Thanks for pointing that out.

Punkid said:

i used to play this online game and it had captcha all over the place ... ihate it :p

Guest said:

reCaptcha is a failure. There's already hundreds of bot able to bypass it.

Punkid said:

but the sucess rates of these bots are really low i guess

MrBondy said:

I dont know how its teaching computers to be 'more effective readers' when all it does is find words that OCR cannot distinguish and give them to a human to decipher.

Its a really interesting process which is currently digitizing every issue of the NYTimes, you can read about on their website

Or a highly recomended TED talk [link]

(I think thats the one, cant access at work)


MrBondy said:

In responce to the Guest who says they are a failure... True - in general captcha's are week (6 seconds to break hotmails captcha 04/2008) and I once saw a review of a bot which could break the majority of captcha's except googles, which if you ever forget your gmail pasword you will know how incredibily difficult the words are to distinguish.

But reCaptcha works, because its not just a Captcha - Its a method of digitizing text at a rate of 150,000 man hours per day.


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