Captcha is the thermal port on Yahoo’s Death Star

Yahoo’s captcha system is broken.  Horrendously, tragically broken.  Today, my colleague (who holds a Master’s degree) tried to sign up for a Yahoo/Flickr account.  On the last page of the registration process, he ran into a captcha.  After about five attempts to successfully enter the code, he started to laugh and called me over.  But since I’ve only got a Bachelor’s degree, I wasn’t much help.  We would both stare at the image, try listening to the horrendously garbled audio rendition, discuss the possibilities, then submit our best guess.  Unfortunately, even with both of us straining our visual cortexes to their breaking points, it took us five more tries to finally get it right…10 attempts total.  How many people would have given up before making 10 attempts at a captcha?  I’ll give you a hint: Probably the same number of people that choose Google search over Yahoo.

I decided to go back later to try again because I really believed a company like Yahoo couldn’t screw up their registration process – something that is so vitally important to their survival.  The first time must have been a fluke.  Here’s what happened:

First Attempt:


Looking good?  No, “Please try this code instead”:



Okay, this time I must have it right.  Nope!  Wrong again!



What could this possibly be if not 3G46czFpy?  Nope.



This one looks like a sure thing.  Right?  Wrong again.



Fifth time’s a charm?  YES!!  An improvement of 50% over our first attempts.


If someone can tell me what I should have entered those first 4 times to have gotten it right, please leave a message in the comments.

There are a few key lessons here:

  • Test everything.
  • User registration is important.  Don’t screw it up.
  • Even big companies sometimes fall over little (but very important) things.
  • Don’t make it hard for someone to be your customer.

Hopefully Yahoo recognizes the importance of this issue and fixes it ASAP.  Their users, employees and shareholders are counting on them.

author avatar
Ryan Moore Director
Ryan Moore (MA, PMP, BCom) is the Cofounder and Director of Uncanny Owl, creators of Uncanny Automator and a suite of popular add-ons for LearnDash. Since 2013, Ryan has helped thousands of companies add elearning and automation capabilities to their WordPress websites.
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