It seems that most text labels for SPAM-filtering tests use phrases like “prove you’re not a robot” or “prove you’re a human”. But do non-technical users understand that non-humans can access the Internet? And if not, wouldn’t the term “robot” more likely conjure up images of B-9 from Lost In Space, Asimo, or Terminators, rather than a bodyless web crawler?

I imagine this knowledge gap, if it exists, would be shrinking over time: by 2015 CAPTCHAs have had their heyday already, robotic assistants like Siri are a part of everyday life, and most people with e-mail accounts or open blog comments have likely experienced gibberish text advertisements. But I still wonder if asking a user to prove their humanity ever comes across as strange or unexpected in the context of submitting a form. Does it assume too much insider knowledge? Or does the very act of asking the question alert uninformed users to the existence of robots on the Internet?

Any data on this?

  • Either way, it's still infinitely friendlier than a CAPTCHA.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 3:19
  • 1
    I personally would go with the wording that contains "human". While it's clear that I'm a specific thing it might not be as clear that i am not a specific thing. I sure know that I'm a human but when someone asks me "are a you robot", "are you a shelf" i first need to think a bit that I'm not such a thing.
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 7:51
  • Ask your mother.
    – Bill Dagg
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 15:44

2 Answers 2



In my experience most people without technical knowledge don't know what an Internet robot is unless you specifically explain it to them. Even though Captchas have been around for years, they fail to explain why Captchas exist. They'll usually just explain that they are to prevent spam or robots, but they don't explain that things like web crawlers and spam bots can visit their site.

Most people I've spoken to think that they "stop spam" by just slowing down a regular user who might be trying to create many accounts or a related form of spam.

  • 2
    "by just slowing down a regular user" - Well, they're not wrong.
    – insidesin
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 8:26
  • Yea. I'm one of these people who sometimes spams accounts.
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 7:54

Most people barely understand what the Internet is, beyond the "and then a miracle happens" level. Most people think a robot is always an automated mechanical device.

Actually, it isn't clear most people get even that far, drpending on what population you're using "people" to represent.

May I suggest you refine the question?

  • There are at least 1,175,715 people that know precisely how the internet works!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 18:01
  • @monkeyzeus... and 1,165,713 of them are wrong.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 18:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.