How Google no-Captcha Captcha slows down your mobile site.

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Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: December 2017

4 minute read

Why does Google repeatedly mess up web speed? We don’t know. The harder they try the worse it gets. Here’s another unrecognized offense against mobile speed.

What’s the cost of placing Google’s “NoCaptcha reCaptcha” on your precious website? Most site owners don’t realize the heavy speed impact of adding this Google-sponsored freebie. It’s speed-destroying bad news. NoCaptcha reCaptcha negates your hard work tweaking away milliseconds.

So what is NoCaptcha reCaptcha – and how did it get such a goofy name? This is what it looks like today (see image below). We’re sure you’ve seen it before. It appears on many sites – big and small. All you need to use it is signing up for a Google API.

NoCaptcha reCaptcha is an automated robot sniffer. It’s supposed to be intelligent. It monitors the user-approach path toward the button. It’s original form was a sort-of-simple reCaptcha to catch spambots.

“A significant number of your users can now attest they are human without having to solve a CAPTCHA. Instead with just a single click they’ll confirm they are not a robot. We’re calling it the No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA experience.” – Google

API means “application programming interface.” It’s a set of protocols and tools for building application software. APIs are always several calls or requests to remote servers. This takes time and causes delays. The scripts used aren’t cached as part of your website. There’s no escaping the speed burden APIs cause. Does Google gather site data from their APIs and fonts? Of course. Why do you think it’s free?

Above is the old-style reCaptcha. You had to read either numbers or letters from a photograph – or fuzzy squiggly words. Then enter those into a field. This annoyed people for obvious reasons. Can you read those dim numbers? Squint!

reCAPTCHA was acquired by Google in September 2009. It historically was difficult. Google used warped pictures that were hard for bots and humans to fill out. Blurred, jiggled, or fuzzy backgrounds were an ugly mess. Now it’s condensed into a Javascript widget (API), known as the new noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA. No more letters and numbers that are hard to read, simply click the widget to proceed. Sounds great.

Does it always work flawlessly? Nope. We attest to that from personal experience. If you fail the human test, it presents pictures to recognize. These include things such as “click on all the road signs” or “click on all the storefronts.” It can present never-ending pictures – even if you’re careful. Usability nightmare.

Before reCaptcha existed, “captcha” was used on comments, forms, and logins. Preventing and blocking spammers and hackers was the goal. A captcha was real simple. It had no API. It usually asked you to answer a question, describe a picture, or solve a math challenge.

Here’s a typical math-challenge example:

OK. We’re joking.

A math challenge was something more like: “What is 1 + 1?” Or a text challenge might ask, “What color is the sky?” But some people answer azure or cyan – instead of blue. Does simple captcha still work? Yes. Do they add to page weight? No. Do they thwart SPAMbots? Yes. So why use a slow, heavier, sophisticated noCaptcha reCaptcha? Is Google spying on your site? We don’t know. It makes no sense whatsoever. So you’ll feel faddish and hip?

Captcha and reCaptcha are used to protect comment forms, login forms, register forms, rest password forms, and block spam comments.

There are over 50 captcha and recaptcha plugins in the free WordPress plugin directory. We downloaded them all to check them over. We aren’t making any recommendations. Why? Because captcha or reCaptcha – and especially noCaptcha reCaptcha – aren’t necessary in the least. Other plugins can take care of security and SPAM blocking without UX hassle for you or users.

So how bad is the noCaptcha reCaptcha speed damage? From our limited tests, here’s the results:

NoCaptcha reCaptcha adds 350 to 550 milliseconds globally to your website.

When we say, globally we mean site drag. That is where a plugin or script slows down every single page and post of your website. Not only the page where a shortcode or appearance is located. Everywhere.

How many HTTP requests or calls are added? Between 11 and 20. It depends on variables. It’s not always the same. Again, don’t ask us why. It’s a Google thing.

The real kicker is sometimes server connections don’t happen smoothly. Then load times are unpredictable. Users complain of delays of up to 30 seconds. That’s correct. Not 30 milliseconds. Seconds!

We just don’t think noCaptcha reCaptcha is worth it – especially for mobile devices.

 

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Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

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