Cloudflare drops Google reCAPTCHA in favor of hCaptcha

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 13, 2020

Cloudflare announced plans to drop Google's reCAPTCHA service in favor of hCaptcha last week on the official company blog.

Cloudflare offers many features for webmasters and site owners. One of the features acts like a firewall. It blocks known malicious traffic automatically, allows traffic by humans, and displays a captcha if traffic is encountered that could be malicious or legitimate.

Captcha, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart, are displayed in the latter cases as a verification step. Ideally, captchas are designed so that humans can pass them easily while bots will fail to pass them.

Cloudflare has been using Google's reCAPTCHA service (which Google acquired in 2009). Up until now, use of reCAPTCHA was free for the companies that implemented it. Google did get something in return as it used the service to train visual identification systems. The choice made sense from a business perspective as it was free, scaled thanks to Google's vast network of servers, and was effective (according to Cloudflare).

Privacy concerns were raised even in the early days as Cloudflare customers were concerned that reCAPTCHA was operated by Google. Additionally, Cloudflare noticed that reCAPTCHA was having issues in some regions such as China as Google services are often (or always) blocked there.

Plans formed to switch to a different provider. Google announced in 2020 that it would start to charge for the use of reCaptcha. Cloudflare started to look at other captcha providers to find a suitable alternative as it would be too expensive to continue using Google's solution.

Cloudflare picked hCaptcha and provides several reasons for that:

  1. The company does not sell personal data and collects only minimal data.
  2. Performance was "as good as or better than expected".
  3. Includes solutions for visually impaired and "other users with accessibility challenges".
  4. Supports Privacy Pass.
  5. The solution works in regions in which Google is blocked.
  6. The hCaptcha team "was nimble and responsive".

The business model of hCaptcha is similar to that of Google. The company charges customers that need "image classification data" or tasks. The company pays publishers who install the solution on their sites.

Both companies agreed on a different business model because of Cloudflare's scale. Cloudflare decided to pay hCaptcha and push most of the technical load on its own platform to make sure that the solution will scale well.

Closing Words

It remains to be seen how well the switch from using Google's captcha solution to the new solution will go. Privacy conscious Internet users will probably like the decision because Google will no longer have anything to do with the display of captchas on sites that use Cloudflare.

Now you: What is your take on the decision?

Cloudflare drops Google reCAPTCHA in favor of hCaptcha
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Cloudflare drops Google reCAPTCHA in favor of hCaptcha
Cloudflare announced plans to drop Google's reCAPTCHA service in favor of hCaptcha last week on the official company blog. 
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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