Google Acquires CAPTCHA Company

    September 17, 2009
    Chris Crum

Google announced today that it has acquired reCAPTCHA, a company that provides CAPTCHAs to over 100,000 sites around the web.

Perhaps you’re thinking that Google was inspired by a patent recently granted to Microsoft for advertising via the CAPTCHA. Maybe Google will be the first to offer AdWords in CAPTCHAs. Maybe "relevant" CAPTCHA text.

Google Acquires reCAPTCHA

No, it appears that Google has something else in mind, and it involves the reading and archiving of printed materials. Luis von Ahn, co-founder of reCAPTCHA, and Will Cathcart, Google Product Manager explain:

Since computers have trouble reading squiggly words like these, CAPTCHAs are designed to allow humans in but prevent malicious programs from scalping tickets or obtain millions of email accounts for spamming. But there’s a twist — the words in many of the CAPTCHAs provided by reCAPTCHA come from scanned archival newspapers and old books. Computers find it hard to recognize these words because the ink and paper have degraded over time, but by typing them in as a CAPTCHA, crowds teach computers to read the scanned text.

In this way, reCAPTCHA’s unique technology improves the process that converts scanned images into plain text, known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This technology also powers large scale text scanning projects like Google Books and Google News Archive Search. Having the text version of documents is important because plain text can be searched, easily rendered on mobile devices and displayed to visually impaired users. So we’ll be applying the technology within Google not only to increase fraud and spam protection for Google products but also to improve our books and newspaper scanning process.

Google Acquires reCAPTCHA

Well, they didn’t exactly rule the ad thing out, but it does appear that the acquisition is more in line with Google’s conquest to organize the world’s information. Google did not reveal financial terms of the acquisition.