The loathed CAPTCHA verification system gets the boot by Ticketmaster: Thank you!
Next time you buy a concert ticket, the checkout process might be a little less annoying now that Ticketmaster has done away with pesky CAPTCHAs.
To keep scalpers out, Ticketmaster uses a solution from Solve Media that asks users to enter plain English words and phrases, rather than CAPTCHA's barely-decipherable jumble of letters and numbers. For instance, users might be asked to solve an obvious multiple choice question, like “Which one is a country?” with potential answers including “monster truck,” “puppy” and “Spain.”
According to the Associated Press, the new system has halved the average time it takes customers to solve a puzzle, from 14 seconds down to seven seconds. Kip Levin, Ticketmaster's executive vice president of eCommerce, said the company has seen anecdotal evidence of an “uptick in fan satisfaction,” and is happy from a security standpoint as well.
Solve Media isn't a new company – I wrote about it in 2010 – but Ticketmaster is arguably one of its most high-profile clients. Ticketmaster needs a bot-deterrent to fight scalpers, who look to purchase tickets in bulk using automated systems, and the company's old CAPTCHA system wasn't foolproof. In 2010, a group of scalpers pleaded guilty to circumventing the systems of Ticketmaster and other ticket vendors using a network of CAPTCHA-solving computers. As the AP notes, Solve Media looks for clues to determine whether a ticket-buyer is actually a bot, and tailors the difficulty of its questions accordingly.
The only downside is that Solve Media's system doubles as advertising, so some puzzles may ask you to type in the slogan or product name as it appears on screen. I'm not opposed to advertising – it pays my bills, after all – but there's something just a little icky about forcing users to repeat a company's marketing message in the name of security. Traditional CAPTCHAs, at least, serve a more noble goal: by deciphering those messy words and letters, you're helping to digitize old print books.
Ideally, we might be able to move beyond these systems of puzzles and passphrases entirely. On mobile phones, for instance, Ticketmaster now uses a push notification system that eliminates the need for CAPTCHA, because your hardware essentially proves that you're a real person. Incidentally, efforts are underway to kill the password in similar fashion.