In this article, we will take a look at the bot protection service hCaptcha and explore potentially superior alternatives to it. We will discuss the features and limitations of hCaptcha from the perspective of security, privacy, accessibility and usability.

Overview of hCaptcha

hCaptcha is a popular CAPTCHA system out there and can be found on countless websites on the Internet. It is commonly used to protect contact forms, login pages, and checkout processes from unwanted requests, known as spam. hCaptcha is a service of Intuition Machines, a US company focused on machine learning in the field of image recognition. While the parent company Intuition Machines also does research in the field of AI, their core product and what they are known for is hCaptcha. hCaptcha offers a free Publisher plan for non-enterprise customers, a Pro plan with up to 100,000 requests per month and an Enterprise plan.

hCaptcha mainly uses image labeling tasks to try to distinguish between human users and computers. These tasks require the user to select photos that match a given description. Most Internet users will have probably been asked many times to select traffic lights, pedestrian crosswalks, or motorcycles from a set of photos or pictures.

What many users don’t know is that these photos are not randomly chosen, but the label images are carefully selected to train machine learning models. This has been hCaptcha’s primary business model since its inception. Other companies pay hCaptcha to display their pictures for website visitors to label. Data vendors buy the labeled data generated by the hCaptcha widget.

The aspect of distinguishing between humans and computers was more of a nice side effect for site owners to put hCaptcha on their website. Until 2023, hCaptcha even gave them a small financial incentive to put hCaptcha on their websites by sharing some of the revenue from the image labeling tasks with them.

The Need for a CAPTCHA Alternative to hCaptcha

Given the history and business model of hCaptcha, their primary focus is still to serve image annotation tasks to as many users as possible.

For hCaptcha Enterprise customers, they offer a passive mode which aims to be an invisible version. The passive CAPTCHA promises to challenge less than 0.1 % of legitimate users by presenting a visual CAPTCHA test. Even with this, hCaptcha doesn’t guarantee that real users will never have to solve a puzzle by hand.

After all, these popular CAPTCHA puzzles are one of the main ways to differentiate humans from bots, but they slow down the user experience, can increase churn, and aren’t accessible to all users.

While hCaptcha strives for data protection and privacy compliance, some alternatives have privacy as one of their core principles and focus more on ensuring data protection and privacy standards such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA.

For European companies, as well as international companies with customers in the EU, GDPR compliance can be particularly difficult when using a US-based solution like hCaptcha. One of the biggest issues with GDPR compliance is that hCaptcha transfers personal data to Intuition Machines servers in the United States, outside of the European Economic Area. Another issue related to GDPR is the use of cookies that hCaptcha uses for its passive CAPTCHA.

If the user’s consent is not obtained before the cookie is set, the website owner may be in violation of the GDPR. User consent must also be obtained for the transfer of data to parties in countries that are considered risky based on data protection regulations. Only those who can demonstrate all this in a comprehensible way can use hCaptcha in compliance with privacy regulations, which makes the practical integration of hCaptcha difficult.

The Search for hCaptcha Alternatives

What Are We Looking for in an Alternative to hCaptcha?

When looking for human-friendly and GDPR compliant hCaptcha alternatives to protect your forms from unwanted submissions, there are a few factors important to consider. These include accessibility, user experience, privacy and GDPR compliance, and overall security.

From an accessibility and usability perspective, a CAPTCHA that doesn’t involve visual challenges, labeling tasks, or general user interaction is optimal. We want the best experience for the user while not leaving people with visual impairments and elderly people behind. These users are not able to solve tests that are based on selecting images or reading distorted texts, and it’s not acceptable to prevent them from using your site.

The visual tests of hCaptcha became increasingly difficult over time because bots became better at solving them. Today, it can be argued that bots are better at solving these puzzles than humans, which defeats the purpose of using these types of image CAPTCHAs.

From a privacy perspective, we’re looking for an alternative CAPTCHA system that’s transparent about what data is collected and how it’s processed. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about where and how long end-user data is stored.

hCaptcha uses cookies for its risk analysis feature. The use of hCaptcha cookies may not be GDPR compliant if users cannot explicitly opt-in to the use of hCaptcha cookies before they are set.

For EU companies and international companies with EU customers to comply with GDPR, it helps if the CAPTCHA provider is located within the European Union. This way, there’s no risk of data being transferred to countries outside the EU.

One of the most important factors when choosing a bot protection service is security. The purpose is to defend your websites from unwanted requests, bots, spam and malicious traffic. While most tools do this job well for trivial bots, there are still interesting differences in how they work and what kind of attackers they can protect you from.

Although visual challenges may seem like the safest solution, because they involve manual interaction by the visitor, this is not necessarily the case anymore. A service that relies entirely on these visual tests can’t keep up with the rapid development of more advanced bots using AI image recognition technology.

Overall, we want a CAPTCHA service to focus on bot detection and bot protection. We don’t want image CAPTCHAs to be an excuse to train machine learning models to support an image labeling business. There should be a real incentive for the company behind it to continually maintain and improve the security of its solution.

Introducing Friendly Captcha: An Alternative to hCaptcha

What is Friendly Captcha?

Friendly Captcha is a hCaptcha alternative based in the EU with a focus on privacy, accessibility and user experience. It relies on a sophisticated proof-of-work-based algorithm to generate invisible, cryptographic puzzles that the end user’s device must solve in the background to prove that it is not a malicious bot. These cryptographic puzzles are used in combination with advanced risk signals and difficulty scaling to provide bot detection and spam prevention for web forms such as logins, registrations or checkout processes.

Instead of requiring website visitors to manually solve CAPTCHA challenges, Friendly Captcha is completely invisible, and does not require user interaction at all. The UX impact is minimal, and human users rarely have to wait more than a few seconds. Usually, the invisible CAPTCHA challenge is solved in the background before the visitor has even filled out the form.

This way, Friendly Captcha is accessible to all users and does not degrade the user experience, while still protecting you from unwanted spam entries, bot traffic and cyber attacks.

How Friendly Captcha Compares with hCaptcha

While Friendly Captcha and hCaptcha are both used for bot protection and spam prevention, there are many differences in how they work and for which use cases they can be applied.

hCaptcha relies heavily on visual labeling tests to be solved manually by real users. hCaptcha offers a so-called “Passive CAPTCHA” for paying enterprise customers, which usually does not require manual image recognition tasks by the user. However, this doesn’t seem to be truly passive. If not enough user data can be collected, hCaptcha cannot verify that it is a human. Less data means that it will still display a visual challenge.

hCaptcha claims that only 0.1 % of website visitors will have to manually solve a puzzle when using the passive mode. Yet, it is unclear when this is supposed to happen. In particular, users who value their privacy and have configured their browsers to protect them from malicious data collection and tracking will likely fall into the 0.1 % and be penalized.

An effective, alternative CAPTCHA system must ensure that false positives, i.e. real users mistakenly identified as bots, are not accidentally blocked. When looking for hCaptcha alternatives, you should make sure that legitimate users are never banned and accessibility is guaranteed for everyone.

Friendly Captcha will never require the user to solve a puzzle by hand and will never lock a human out. Its invisible puzzles combined with advanced risk signals work completely in the background and have no negative impact on the user experience. This allows people with visual impairments and the elderly to pass the CAPTCHA barrier-free.

Friendly Captcha is a German company and is built purely on top of EU-based services with the highest privacy standards. It is transparent about what data is collected and where it is stored. The requirements for transfers to third countries, such as the US, must be met according to Article 5 of the GDPR, otherwise the transfer is not in compliance with the GDPR. To meet this requirement, Friendly Captcha offers a dedicated EU endpoint.

For EU users, no personal data will ever leave the European Union. Compared to hCaptcha, this is a huge advantage for organizations looking to comply with GDPR, as hCaptcha is a US-based company and requires some data to be transferred outside of the EU.

Overall, Friendly Captcha only collects the data that is necessary to provide its service and to protect your site from bots and automated spam. It is purely focused on providing the best CAPTCHA solution without any hidden business model or exploiting users to train AI models.

Advantages of Friendly Captcha over hCaptcha

GDPR Compliance: The Benefit of an EU Provider

Friendly Captcha is fully GDPR compliant and does not require any additional user consent. It’s transparent about what data is collected and where it’s stored, and doesn’t hide any of this from the user. Friendly Captcha does not use HTTP cookies and does not use persistent browser storage.

With hCaptcha, the transfer of personal data of European users to the USA raises privacy concerns.

Friendly Captcha is an EU CAPTCHA provider, built and hosted in Germany, and does not rely on any third parties outside of the EU. This means that your users’ data will never leave the European Union, while your website and forms are protected from bots and spam.

Compared to hCaptcha, no international data transfer is a huge advantage for companies looking to comply with data protection standards like GDPR. The fact that Friendly Captcha works entirely without HTTP cookies also makes it easier to use. With Friendly Captcha, website owners do not have to obtain prior consent before cookies are set or data is transferred.

Superior Usability: Making CAPTCHA Friendlier

In terms of usability and good user experience, Friendly Captcha is far superior. It has little to no impact on the user experience and will never lock anyone out.

While hCaptcha in many cases requires the user to manually solve a puzzle, Friendly Captcha is a fully invisible CAPTCHA and works entirely in the background.

Based on advanced risk signals, Friendly Captcha automatically scales the difficulty of its cryptographic puzzles that the end user’s device must solve. Site visitors will not experience any slowdown or difference in the user experience, as the CAPTCHA is often solved before the user is even ready to submit the form.

This makes Friendly Captcha the more human-friendly hCaptcha alternative.

Full Accessibility: A Truly Inclusive CAPTCHA Alternative

While some hCaptcha’s challenges are hard or even impossible to solve by the elderly and people with impairments, Friendly Captcha is accessible to everyone. It will never ask the user to read distorted text or find yet another traffic light in an image. Each challenge employed by Friendly Captcha is solved by the user’s web browser. It just works for everyone.

Those who still use hCaptcha accept that people with disabilities or the elderly are excluded from important website forms such as creating an account, logging in, or submitting a contact form.

As legitimate users, they face repeated challenges or are blocked from accessing services, resulting in a poor user experience. With the European Accessibility Reinforcement Act, that becomes legally binding in June 2025, such accessibility issues will become even more important.

Privacy: Is hCaptcha GDPR Compliant?

The Challenges with hCaptcha and GDPR

GDPR compliance is crucial for websites targeting users in the EU, in order to protect their users’ right to privacy. Without hCaptcha being GDPR compliant, companies operating in the European Union risk significant fines.

hCaptcha promises to be GDPR compliant, and also discloses what personal information is being collected.

However, hCaptcha requires cookies to work properly. These cookies, without prior user consent, are considered critical when it comes to complying with privacy laws, such as GDPR and CCPA. In times when there are CAPTCHA services that work without cookies, the question arises whether the cookies used by hCaptcha are strictly necessary. This is why hCaptcha cookies need to be checked in detail by website owners.

To use hCaptcha, the website owner must embed and dynamically load a script from the hCaptcha servers. This means that each user’s browser will send a request to hCaptcha’s servers, download the script, and execute it on their local machine. This is a risk because the request already sends personal information about the user to the hCaptcha servers in the US, and it also creates an unnecessary attack surface. Attackers can potentially modify this script and inject arbitrary code into the browser of any user visiting the site to steal their information.

Websites targeting European users must comply with GDPR requirements. When using hCaptcha, the personal data of European users is transferred to US hosting providers. Under the GDPR, this is a potentially critical transfer of data to a third country. Website operators must conduct a detailed risk assessment and are responsible for any risks that may arise.

Is hCaptcha GDPR compliant? The answer depends on many unresolved factors. After clicking the “I am human” checkbox, a cookie is stored and personal data is transmitted. According to the German Telecommunications and Telemedia Data Protection Act (TTDSG), informed, explicit and prior consent is required. The fact that Intuition Machines is based in the USA is also problematic in terms of European data protection and the Schremms II ruling. The CAPTCHA provider hCaptcha cannot rule out the possibility that other actors, such as US intelligence services, may also have access to the personal data of EU citizens. Due to the use of cookies without prior consent and the transfer of personal data to third countries, hCaptcha’s GDPR compliance must be critically assessed.

The same issues are faced by website owners using Google’s reCAPTCHA service. Making reCAPTCHA work involves transferring personal data to Google servers outside the European Economic Union, in the United States.

There have already been several rulings in this regard, such as the NS Card France case or Cityscoot case. The French privacy commission ruled that their use of Google reCAPTCHA did not meet GDPR transparency requirements and that they failed to obtain prior user consent for the US based CAPTCHA service. Both companies were fined over €100,000.

How Friendly Captcha Ensures GDPR Compliance

Privacy is one of the core strengths of Friendly Captcha, and it is GDPR compliant right out of the box. It doesn’t set any HTTP cookies and doesn’t store any local data in the browser’s persistent storage. Therefore, it doesn’t need user consent.

Friendly Captcha is a German company, and for EU users it only relies on European data centers located in the EU. The same goes for all sub processors that it depends on to process end-user data. This means that for EU websites embedding Friendly Captcha, no sensitive information is ever transferred to risky countries such as the US according to European regulations.

Friendly Captcha discloses what information is collected, how it is processed, and what third parties are involved. There are no secrets or hidden surprises when integrating it into your website. To comply with GDPR, all you need to do is add Friendly Captcha to your privacy policy.

Usability: A Key Factor in Choosing a hCaptcha Alternative

Usability Challenges with hCaptcha

hCaptcha primarily uses image labeling tasks to distinguish genuine humans from bots, although the company claims otherwise with its passive CAPTCHA. With the rise of AI, computers have gotten much better at recognizing images over the last few years, which means that hCaptcha has to increase the difficulty of these puzzles to make them harder for humans to solve. It’s an endless arms race in which computers get better at solving these puzzles, forcing hCaptcha to increase the difficulty.

These puzzles have become so hard that it can often take minutes to solve them. This leads to a bad user experience and can even cause users to give up and leave your site. With challenges that are nearly impossible to solve, a major problem arises for marketers: the use of hCaptcha decreases conversion rates, which effectively hurts business.

hCaptcha discriminates legitimate users who connect to your site using a VPN or other types of secure networks. These networks are often used by people in repressive countries to connect to the global Internet at all, or by people that care about privacy. For these people, hCaptcha provides an even more difficult puzzle that can often take the website visitor several minutes to solve.

The User-Friendly Approach of Friendly Captcha

The hCaptcha alternative Friendly Captcha is truly invisible and never uses puzzles that have to be solved manually by the user. Instead, it uses a combination of cryptographic puzzles in the background and advanced difficulty scaling to detect and prevent spam, bot attacks, fake users and more. Compared to hCaptcha, Friendly Captcha can dynamically increase the difficulty of its hidden cryptographic puzzles to fight more advanced bots.

The cryptographic puzzles are solved by the end user’s device in the background while the user is filling out the form. They don’t affect the user’s real-time experience when submitting a form. In most cases, the user will not even notice that a CAPTCHA is being used and will be able to submit the form immediately after filling it out.

Accessibility: Making CAPTCHA Available for All

hCaptcha Accessibility Issues

hCaptcha relies on visual puzzles that can be difficult to solve even for experienced web users who spend a lot of time on the Internet. Elderly people and people with visual impairments or disabilities may find it impossible to pass these tests.

These people are as human as anyone else, but due to hCaptcha’s image recognition tasks, they are locked out of the areas protected by hCaptcha, such as registrations, online requests, and checkout processes. Therefore, it fails to do its job of blocking spam while letting real people through. Using this type of CAPTCHA makes your site less accessible and results in a less open web. hCaptcha’s manual user tasks and complex fallbacks make it difficult to comply with web accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and accessibility laws such as the European Accessibility Reinforcement Act.

How Friendly Captcha Ensures Full Accessibility

Friendly Captcha, on the other hand, works as a completely invisible CAPTCHA to make the web open and accessible to everyone. It has all the requirements for full accessibility built in and is a WCAG compliant CAPTCHA alternative.

Unlike hCaptcha, it never uses a challenge that requires manual solving by the user or any interaction at all. With Friendly Captcha, the built-in cryptographic puzzles are solved by the user’s devices in the background and are not visible. As a result, legitimate users have a seamless experience while unwanted spam and bots are defeated. By using Friendly Captcha, you contribute to an open and accessible web.

How to Transition from hCaptcha to Friendly Captcha

Step-By-Step Guide for Transitioning

Friendly Captcha is a drop-in replacement for hCaptcha and traditional CAPTCHAs. With its simple API, it will only take a few minutes to make the transition for most websites and applications.

Create an Account at Friendly Captcha

To use Friendly Captcha on your website, you first need to create a free account at When you sign up, you can choose between different plans, each with a free 30-day trial period.

Create an Application and API Key

After creating your free account, you can log into your Friendly Captcha dashboard at and create an application and an API key.

An application is used to configure how the CAPTCHA will work on your website. After you generate the application, copy the sitekey and keep it in a safe place, we will need it later.

The API key is used in your backend to talk to the Friendly Captcha API and verify the CAPTCHA solution. After creating the API key, copy it and keep it in a safe place, we will need it later as well.

Swap Out the Client Code

To use Friendly Captcha in your website, you first need to replace the JavaScript library provided by hCaptcha with the Friendly Captcha one.

					- <script src="<>" async defer></script>
					+ <script type="module" src="<>" async defer></script>
+ <script nomodule src="<>" async defer></script>

You can now swap out the widget code from hCaptcha with the new one from Friendly Captcha. Make sure to replace <your sitekey> with the sitekey that you got after creating the application. If you have used hCaptcha on multiple pages make sure to update all of them.

					- <div class="h-captcha" data-sitekey="<your sitekey>"></div>
					+ <div data-sitekey="<your sitekey>"></div>

Change the Backend Verification

To verify the CAPTCHA solutions, you need some code in your backend that calls the Friendly Captcha API. It is very similar to the way hCaptcha works, but it also needs to be updated. This depends on what programming language and framework you are using on the backend, please take a look at our documentation to see what you need to change.

For a more detailed guide on how to integrate Friendly Captcha check out our documentation. If you are using a CMS like WordPress, check out our list of supported integrations including guides for the installation.

From hCaptcha to Friendly Captcha – the Benefits of Making the Switch

By following these steps and taking a few minutes to swap out hCaptcha with Friendly Captcha, you can reap the benefits of choosing the friendliest CAPTCHA solution and the best hCaptcha alternative out there. Your users will see an improvement in usability and accessibility by not having to interact with manual image recognition tasks, and you will have an easier time complying with privacy standards like GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA.


Summarizing the Advantages of Friendly Captcha over hCaptcha

Friendly Captcha pioneers a new invisible CAPTCHA technology and is therefore the friendlier and better alternative to hCaptcha. It achieves this by focusing on usability, accessibility, and privacy without compromising on security.

  • Seamless user experience because users don’t have to solve puzzles by hand.

  • Accessible to everyone because there are no visual challenges to deal with.

  • Easy compliance with privacy laws like GDPR because data never leaves the EU.

  • No HTTP cookies, no persistent browser storage, and no fingerprinting.

  • Works out of the box without the need for user consent.

Final Thoughts on Why Friendly Captcha is a Superior hCaptcha Alternative

In a comparison of hCaptcha and Friendly Captcha as an alternative, Friendly Captcha convinces with a user-friendly, accessible and privacy compliant approach.

hCaptcha, with its focus on image-marking technology, tries to distinguish humans from bots with its manual image puzzles, such as the marking of smiling dogs. These are difficult for many users to recognize and therefore detract from the user experience. They are also becoming increasingly insecure as AI image recognition advances. Friendly Captcha takes a new technological approach and is better than hCaptcha when it comes to protecting a website against sophisticated bots. The invisible puzzles used by Friendly Captcha are solved in the background by the end user’s device. This means that users no longer have to perform nerve-wracking manual tests.

With its visual tests, accessibility for hCaptcha customers is only possible in an indirect way. Friendly Captcha is accessible to everyone because it never forces the user to solve an image puzzle by hand.

Although hCaptcha tries to be a more privacy oriented CAPTCHA solution, the use of cookies, the large number of sub-processors used and the international data transfer of EU user data must be viewed critically. Friendly Captcha is fully compliant with data protection laws such as GDPR and CCPA. It can be used without user consent, is transparent about what data is collected and where it is stored, and has no incentive to collect more data than necessary.

If you want to give Friendly Captcha a try yourself, you can check out the live demo or sign up for a free test month to integrate Friendly Captcha into your websites.


There are several hCaptcha alternatives that will protect your site from unwanted access. They include honeypots, anti-spam plugins, fingerprinting and professional bot protection solutions like Friendly Captcha. Friendly Captcha is one of the most sophisticated proof of work based solutions on the market. It is a GDPR compliant, accessible and user friendly alternative to hCaptcha.

A better hCaptcha alternative is Friendly Captcha. Unlike hCaptcha, Friendly Captcha takes accessibility seriously. Friendly Captcha is fully privacy compliant and doesn’t use HTTP cookies, persistent browser storage or fingerprinting. As a security measure, Friendly Captcha effectively keeps spam and bots out while maintaining UX, accessibility, and privacy standards such as GDPR.

In short, Friendly Captcha is the only tool that is fully accessible. All other providers, such as hCaptcha or reCAPTCHA, still use image CAPTCHA tests to block spam and bots. Friendly Captcha is accessible according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This makes it barrier-free and convenient for all website users, while providing reliable protection against spam and mass attacks.

It is hardly possible to achieve full GDPR compliance by using hCaptcha. The setting of cookies without prior consent and the associated transfer of data to the United States must be viewed critically from a data protection perspective. This is because Intuition Machines must provide US intelligence agencies with access to all collected data, including personal data of EU citizens. According to the Schrems II decision, this is a violation of data protection law.

Furthermore, according to the TTDS Act, the informed and explicit consent of the user must be obtained before the cookies are set. There have also been similar cases involving other US CAPTCHA providers, such as reCAPTCHA. The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection pointed out some time ago that GDPR-compliant use is not possible.

If you want to be sure of GDPR compliance when using a CAPTCHA, you should consider Friendly Captcha as an alternative to hCaptcha. It works out-of-the-box and guarantees GDPR-compliant bot protection.