A CAPTCHA (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University) is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human. The term was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, and Nicholas J. Hopper of Carnegie Mellon University, and John Langford of IBM. A common type of captcha requires that the user type the letters of a distorted image, sometimes with the addition of an obscured sequence of letters or digits that appears on the screen. Because the test is administered by a computer, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is administered by a human, a captcha is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test. This term, however, is misleading because it could also mean a Turing test in which the participants are both attempting to prove they are the computer.
Captchas are used to prevent bots from using various types of computing services. Applications include preventing bots from taking part in online polls, registering for free email accounts (which may then be used to send spam), and, more recently, preventing bot-generated spam by requiring that the (unrecognized) sender pass a captcha test before the email message is delivered.