PlayThru Turns Human Authentication Into a Game

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Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and universal hatred of CAPTCHA.

CAPTCHA, of course, is the system that's used on countless Web sites to prove that a user is human, and not some 'bot looking to wreak havoc.

Why the hatred? If you've ever used it yourself, you know why: the user is presented with a box containing some blurred or otherwise altered letters or numbers, then has to type that string into a text field -- assuming he or she can actually decipher it. Turns out the system that's so good at foiling 'bots is pretty good at foiling humans, too.

In many cases, CAPTCHA proves so frustrating and irritating, the user just gives up. That translates into a lost lead or even a lost customer, something no business can afford.

If you run a Web site, you can do yourself and your users a favor by switching to PlayThru. This new system, created by the aptly named Are You A Human, makes the prove-you're-a-human process not only easier, but also more fun.

That's because it PlayThru turns it into a game. Instead of trying to decode some cryptic batch of letters, PlayThru gives users a simple (and very brief) game that runs on Flash, HTML 5, or Java -- depending on what's detected in the user's browser.

For example, you might see a refrigerator with a few miscellaneous objects floating alongside it. To prove you're a human, you must drag the food items into the fridge. It's simple, quick, and even a little bit fun.

Another PlayThru game is shape-based: you have to drag the right shapes to the right holes. Or put the tools into a toolbox. Or place toppings on a pizza. The games are simple enough that anyone should be able to figure them out -- even if they speak a different language.

According to Are You A Human's beta tests, PlayThru can improve form submission rates by up to 40 percent. And you'll be glad to know it's free; there's no cost associated with adding PlayThru to your site.

The company does plan to offer custom games, however, with a personalized PlayThru that could include something like your company logo or a new product. Prices for that option have yet to be announced.

You can try PlayThru yourself on the company's demo page. Needless to say, it's a huge improvement over traditional CAPTCHA. I can't think of a single reason a business owner would balk at making the switch.

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