Sep 24, 2010

Microsoft CAPTCHA Hell

Unintelligible Windows Live - Microsoft screen CAPTCHA Left: Unintelligible Windows Live - Microsoft screen CAPTCHA

All I wanted to do was unsubscribe from an annoying email from Microsoft. However, I wound up with a 30-minute ordeal trying a variety of methods to get the Microsoft Windows Live site to issue me a new password so I could remove my email address from their system.

The process seemed simple enough, as there was a friendly "Forgot your password?" prompt. However, most of the written CAPTCHA character collections contained at least a few indecipherable squiggles, and after about a dozen CAPTCHA failures I decided to try the audio CAPTCHA.


The audio CAPTCHA used by Microsoft has a woman speaking numbers as several other voices speak, making it difficult to even hear the 10-digit sequence, let alone type it in as the voice rapidly ripped through the numbers. On top of that, it sounded like the Microsoft CAPTCHA designers deliberately added electronic hiss and crackle to the mix, making for an audio production almost beyond comprehension.

After about a half-hour of frustration, bouncing back and forth between audio and written CAPTCHAS, I managed to get lucky and find a written string that I could actually read. This, however, was a heavy price to pay for unsubscribing to Microsoft's emails, and it leads me to believe that this is a deliberate attempt by the Windows Live folks to make it almost impossible to stop receiving their quasi-spam.


Quimbob said...

Those CAPTCHA things are getting harder & harder. Still haven't tried the audio.
Maybe they can figure out a way to scramble braille.

flask said...

i'm certain it's deliberate, as well.

i find that when the captcha thingies aren't standing in the way of something to get me AWAY from the agency, they're quite clear to read.

ingsk. loud and legible.

Charlie said...

I too struggle with the whole CAPTCHA process. I am color blind and it sometimes takes me 5 or 6 times to get it right.

Kind of ironic I have to enter a CAPTCHA to enter a comment about entering CAPTCHAs though

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Captchas are getting harder, more time-wasting, more frustrating than ever. Needless to say the one that confronted me while posting this was an example of how it should be done. Just beautiful, and a breeze to pass through. The correct use of the feature, and that's how they should all be done.

That's how they all should be. Too often Captchas are used as barriers to do what MS appears to be doing, to keep people away from accessing something on the site, despite the invitation to do so. F

For example today I was at a site offering software for sale. I was interested in purchasing but first needed to ask a question about the software. Their Contact page popped up and I was faced with truly horrendous Captchas. I struggled ten times, including audio, but they were all undecipherable. I strongly suspect this 'pass me not' barrier was a deliberate attempt by the developer to appear to welcome personal contact but really wanting people to use his forum instead. Needless to say I was very annoyed by all the time I wasted only to fail, and that developer lost a sale.

I've never had any trouble with a similar security feature which I encounter occasionally. It requires you to give the answer to a simple sum. It's a pleasure to use, very easy to read, and over in a snap.

I'd personally welcome blog and site owners who use difficult and time-wasting Captchas to go for this method instead.