When securing your website, picking the right CAPTCHA system is crucial. You may be considering Google’s reCAPTCHA versions reCAPTCHA v2 vs v3 and wondering how they differ in terms of privacy, website security, and user experience. This article compares the two versions of reCAPTCHA for bot protection and gives you all the information you need to decide whether or not to implement reCAPTCHA v2 or reCAPTCHA v3.

Captcha puzzle

Overview of reCAPTCHA

A CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart and is typically used as a security check using an image or audio challenge in web forms to distinguish humans from bots.

The first CAPTCHAs were used for basic verification of legitimate users. But today, CAPTCHAs are an integral part of the security concept for websites. For example, CAPTCHAs are useful to prevent form spam and credential stuffing. reCAPTCHA is Google’s CAPTCHA solution introduced in 2007.


With more than three million customers worldwide, reCAPTCHA is one of the most popular CAPTCHA solutions. Google reCAPTCHA enhances security by using behavioral analysis to distinguish between actual users and bot traffic, focusing on how users interact with websites to prevent automated abuse. It is intended to help identify bots and protect forms such as internet forms, login pages, and checkout processes from unwanted requests or spam.

Google’s service is free for small, non-business websites, while larger and business customers are charged per request. The original version, reCAPTCHA v1, required users to recognize distorted text or images. Revised versions reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 followed in 2014 and 2018. reCAPTCHA v2 still works with a visual challenge if the user is classified as risky. Google’s reCAPTCHA Version 3, on the other hand, creates a risk score based on the user’s behavior that determines whether the CAPTCHA is passed.

However, the widespread use of reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 has been accompanied by years of debate about Google’s compliance with global privacy laws, collection of personal user data, and poor user experience.

Differences between reCAPTCHA v2 and v3

The main difference between reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 is that v2 requires users to complete a visual challenge (e.g. selecting images) to prove they’re human. reCAPTCHA v3 operates mostly in the background, assigning a reCAPTCHA score to user interactions to determine whether they’re human or bot. In cases where the system is unsure or detects suspicious traffic, users will still have to perform manual tasks such as clicking on images. Here is a quick breakdown of reCAPTCHA v2 vs v3:

  • reCAPTCHA v2: Uses the “I’m not a robot” checkbox indicating genuine users and offers visual challenges that can be intrusive and disruptive to the user experience. Bots have found ways to bypass this version, reducing its effectiveness in preventing automated spam. The integration of reCAPTCHA v2 requires a JavaScript API call from the reCAPTCHA badge directly when the user clicks on an existing button on the site or when the verification is complete, necessitating a JavaScript callback.

  • reCAPTCHA v3: Mostly invisible, but it still needs manual user interaction in different cases and collects personal user data for analysis, raising concerns about privacy and data usage. It lacks transparency in how the risk scores are determined, leaving genuine users uncertain about the extent of their privacy. The JavaScript API plays a crucial role in integrating reCAPTCHA v3, allowing for the invocation of reCAPTCHA verification directly and returning a score typically without user interaction. The pure JavaScript API returning enables reCAPTCHA v3 to verify interactions by providing risk scores that require site owners to manually take specific actions such as authentication, moderation, and image marking tasks.


reCAPTCHA v2 – How It Works

reCAPTCHA v2 is the second iteration of Google’s CAPTCHA solution. v2 has been optimized to better respond to the escalating challenges of spam and malicious activity, to fight bots, and to fortify online platforms against unwanted intrusions.

The second version relies on the familiar “I’m not a robot” checkbox, an interactive element incorporated into various online forms. For the checkbox challenge, users must click the checkbox indicating that they are not a robot. This feature prompts real users to manually confirm their humanity, providing a basic level of verification. While it can effectively filter out some automated bots, it falls short in addressing advanced bots detection and ensuring airtight security.

reCAPTCHA v2 serves as a rudimentary line of defense against spam and bot-driven attacks, but its effectiveness is limited. It can be useful in scenarios requiring minimal user verification, such as simple contact forms or low-risk login pages. However, for sites that face more sophisticated threats or require higher levels of security, alternative solutions with stronger bot detection mechanisms and therefore better bot protection may be more appropriate.

    Core Features of reCAPTCHA v2

    In the following section, we will take a look at the core features of reCAPTCHA v2. The second version is based on a two-step verification system. With the familiar “I am not a robot” checkbox indicating human users or automated bots, requires actual users to manually confirm their humanity. In addition, users are presented with an additional CAPTCHA challenge to prove their humanity.

    The visual CAPTCHA challenge comes with image recognition tasks that often take the form of marking traffic lights or bicycles on many different images or a mosaic of images. Website visitors must manually click on the correct images to identify themselves as legitimate users.

    reCAPTCHA 2 is only partly compatible with screen readers including ChromeVox, JAWS, NVDA and VoiceOver. It notifies screen readers of status changes. However, there are still significant accessibility concerns as it requires the user to perform manual tasks.

      Pros of reCAPTCHA v2

      The reasons why reCAPTCHA 2 is still found on so many websites are as follows:

      • User familiarity: reCAPTCHA v2’s “I’m not a robot” checkbox uses an image tagging test that everyone is familiar with.

      • Simple to work with: reCAPTCHA v2 is simple by design and does exactly what it says on the tin – a fit for organizations with basic requirements.

      Cons of reCAPTCHA v2

      But there are things that could be better using reCAPTCHA v2:

      • Limited bot detection: While reCAPTCHA v2 provides a moderate level of bot detection, it may not be as effective against advanced bots that can mimic human behavior. Its reliance on the image recognition challenges can be circumvented by more sophisticated and advanced bots.

      • Susceptibility to automated solving techniques: While reCAPTCHA v2 introduces measures to prevent automated bots, it can still be vulnerable to advanced bot techniques such as machine learning model algorithms or third-party services that can bypass the challenges.

        reCAPTCHA v3

        reCAPTCHA v3 – How It Works

        reCAPTCHA v3 is an advanced iteration and the new version of the reCAPTCHA system by Google, offering a more comprehensive solution for distinguishing between human users and bots on websites. With a focus on enhanced bot detection, v3 is designed to meet the needs of organizations seeking a more advanced protection to safeguard their online platforms. The reCAPTCHA API, while necessary in distinguishing between human users and bots, still presents challenges by far too often disrupting the user experience, despite its advancements aimed at minimizing interruptions. Additionally, the options it offers for customization require site owners to navigate complex decisions.

        Understanding how does Google reCAPTCHA work, especially with its latest version, v3, involves user scores, where each user request is returned with a score between 0 and 1. User scores allow websites to set their own thresholds for what they consider suspicious, using “adaptive risk analysis” to flag potentially concerning traffic while ensuring a seamless experience for human users.

        reCAPTCHA v3 enhances security by using extensive behavioral analysis to distinguish between actual users and bot traffic, focusing on how users interact with websites to prevent automated abuse. The system monitors user behavior on your website and is using embedded links such as reCAPTCHA Google fonts. It helps to identify bots and protect forms such as internet forms, login pages, and checkout processes from unwanted requests or spam.

          Core Features of reCAPTCHA v3

          One of the most important features of reCAPTCHA v3 is bot protection and detection. To prevent bots, the system distinguishes human users from suspicious traffic. This allows organizations to customize their approach to threats.

          The new version of Google reCAPTCHA, while mostly invisible and trying to work behind the scenes, too often requires manual user intervention such as image tagging in certain cases. This invisible reCAPTCHA eliminates the checkbox required to be clicked by the user. However, it does return user scores based on user behavior and cookie analysis. A reCAPTCHA score of 1.0 represents a low-risk, likely legitimate interaction. A reCAPTCHA score of 0.0 means a high-risk, potentially fraudulent interaction.

          For all thresholds in between, the site administrator must decide how to handle suspicious interactions. Should a user with a score of 0.5 be considered high risk and therefore blocked? Or should a user with a score of 0.5 be considered human and allowed through? Site operators must make this difficult decision or resort to other verification methods. One common method is to introduce visual challenges, such as selecting images in a grid after the user clicks a button on the page that contains a v3 code snippet.

          reCAPTCHA offers extensive implementation options. Security scales with the number of embedded Google scripts on multiple pages of your site that use Google reCAPTCHA cookies. The more you have, the easier it is to distinguish legitimate traffic from spam, even at the expense of violating user privacy.

          Pros of reCAPTCHA v3

          The benefits of using the new version Google reCAPTCHA v3 include:

          • Bot detection: With reCAPTCHA v3’s adaptive risk analysis, bot detection happens in real-time, enabling swift identification of malicious bot traffic. The continuous monitoring and instant response provided by reCAPTCHA v3 ensure proactive defense with countermeasures that typically involve manual user image labeling tasks.

          • Customer-friendly CAPTCHA: reCAPTCHA v3 is a straight upgrade in UX compared to v2. Because of its invisible reCAPTCHA feature, users will only be presented with unpleasant image labeling challenges in certain cases, such as when Google reCAPTCHA was unable to collect enough data with its cookies, or when there is an increased risk.

          Cons of reCAPTCHA v3

          The disadvantages of implementing v3 are as follows:

          • Data collection concerns: reCAPTCHA 3 has faced privacy concerns due to its data collection and analysis of user behavior to determine risk scores. The extensive gathering of user data has raised questions about reCAPTCHA and GDPR, which emphasize protecting individuals’ privacy and limiting data collection activities.

          • Lack of user control: Users have limited control over their data and the ability to opt out of reCAPTCHA v3’s data collection and analysis. This lack of control may raise privacy concerns for individuals who are sensitive about their online activities being tracked and analyzed.

          Comparing Google reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 – What Version is Better

          In the following section, we will directly compare reCAPTCHA v2 with reCAPTCHA v3. This is where we are going to find out if reCAPTCHA v2 or v3 is better in terms of privacy, security, and user experience.

          Privacy Compliance

          An important privacy and compliance issue is the collection of personal user data, as strictly regulated by e.g. the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). In order to be used legally, reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 must comply with these privacy regulations.

          It is not clear from the privacy policy how Google collects personal data from end users through reCAPTCHA v2 or reCAPTCHA v3. However, it states that some cookies are meant to save the user’s settings. For example, in the browsers of most users who use Google services, there is a cookie called NID. This NID cookie contains a unique ID that is used to store preferred user settings and other personal information.

          The mere setting of this cookie and more known reCAPTCHA cookies lead to a consent requirement under the GDPR. Companies may act unlawfully if prior consent is not obtained. Following a complaint, the French data protection authority CNIL established in 2023 that reCAPTCHA can only be used after consent, in compliance with the GDPR. In the two cases of NS Cards France and Cityscoot were both companies fined more than €100,000 because they used a reCAPTCHA version without obtaining the user’s prior consent.

          reCAPTCHA v2 uses a cookie-based risk analysis system in addition to the reCAPTCHA challenge. Users of different browsers, whether provided by Google or not, are presented with visual CAPTCHA challenges of varying difficulty. Additionally, reCAPTCHA v2 uses marketing cookies and other cookies.

          For reCAPTCHA v3, no manual interaction is required at first, instead multiple marketing and session cookies are set to analyze behavior in detail and determine a corresponding risk score. Based on the reCAPTCHA score, suspicious traffic then is classified as risky or not. Risky cases require additional tests to prove their humanity. Here, reCAPTCHA 2 is often used as a fallback solution with its image tests.

          Compared to reCAPTCHA v3, reCAPTCHA v2 may be less dependent on cookies, as it is additionally based on clicking a checkbox or solving an image task. In reCAPTCHA v3, the _GRECAPTCHA cookie is set to distinguish and maintain the user’s session state between requests to the reCAPTCHA system. This cookie can have a longer persistence to continuously contribute to behavioral analysis.

          In summary, from a privacy perspective, reCAPTCHA v2 tends to be better because it has fewer cookies. In the end, both reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 are questionable from a privacy perspective. Both versions of Google reCAPTCHA process data collected through international data transfers to the United States. This is particularly controversial for website owners targeting EU customers, as EU customer data should only be processed locally within the European Union.

          Security Features

          When it comes to website security, there are often warnings about the threat of AI-powered advanced bots. While reCAPTCHA has worked well for the past few years, website owners need to stay on top of the latest developments and adapt their security approach on a regular basis.

          The image recognition puzzles of reCAPTCHA v2 are therefore an easy game for simple bots and AI. Additionally, there are so-called CAPTCHA farms, where human workers or advanced algorithms bypass reCAPTCHA challenges, making it more difficult to distinguish between genuine users and automated bots. Using CAPTCHA farms, the bot does not need to execute any JavaScript, but only needs to integrate a callback request with the correct answer from the CAPTCHA farms. As a result, the effectiveness of reCAPTCHA v2 in preventing bot infiltration may be compromised.

          Finally, the invisible reCAPTCHA also faces a major challenge with the emergence of AI-driven bots. Modern bots and AI can automatically read texts, recognize images and simulate human behavior more convincingly than ever before. These advanced bots can mimic mouse movements, keystrokes and other behavioral patterns, making traditional reCAPTCHA v3 techniques less effective at distinguishing between human users and bots.

          In a comparison of security features, the new version reCAPTCHA v3 is superior to the previous version v2. With the advanced behavioral analysis in reCAPTCHA v3, a risk score can be determined, which can protect websites from bot attacks. Special cookies are used for this purpose, so website owners pay for this security with their customers’ personal data, in addition to the general reCAPTCHA pricing. However, even reCAPTCHA v3 does not provide complete protection against advanced bot attacks.

          User Experience

          In the comparison between reCAPTCHA v2 and v3, we now look at the impact of the two versions on the user experience.

          reCAPTCHA v2 comes with its image CAPTCHA challenges that are difficult for many users to solve. This is frustrating and wastes valuable time as the user has to interact with the CAPTCHA multiple times to pass. There is also an accessibility issue here. The visual challenges are only accessible via detours for people with impairments. On top of that, as AI gets better and better, the tests will get harder and harder to solve.

          In contrast, reCAPTCHA v3 seems to be the better option. The invisible reCAPTCHA checks user behavior, classifies suspicious traffic, and the individual user as risky or not after evaluating the reCAPTCHA score. As a result, reCAPTCHA 3 provides a certain level of accessibility for web forms.

          When comparing user experience and accessibility, reCAPTCHA v3 has a slight advantage over reCAPTCHA v2 for unobtrusive website visitors. With the invisible reCAPTCHA, the check theoretically runs in the background. However, as soon as a user appears to be risky, additional reCAPTCHA challenges, such as image recognition tasks, must be used. As a result, reCAPTCHA v3 is not fully accessible.

          How to Choose Between reCAPTCHA Versions

          We have seen that there are differences between the two versions of reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA v2 scores high on privacy with a lower use of cookies. reCAPTCHA v3 scores high on security and user experience with an almost invisible behavioral analysis in the background. So how should you decide between the two versions? Neither reCAPTCHA v2 nor v3 seem to be an ideal solution considering all the arguments. That’s why site admins need to find an option that better suits their needs.

          Important Factors to Consider for a CAPTCHA

          reCAPTCHA v3 or v2 – There are several factors to consider when deciding between the two versions:

          • Privacy and data protection: An ideal CAPTCHA is transparent about how data is processed and where it is stored.

          • Security: Security is the top priority when deciding on a CAPTCHA. Internet forms should be secure, but false positives should not be excluded.

          • User experience: A good CAPTCHA interferes with the user experience as little as possible and runs smoothly in the background.

          We have seen that there are important differences between reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 in terms of privacy, security and user experience. v2 performs better in terms of privacy, while v3 performs slightly better in terms of security and UX. However, neither version is really convincing. Website administrators are therefore well advised to consider other reCAPTCHA alternatives, such as Friendly Captcha. In the next step we will compare reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 with Friendly Captcha.

          Cryptographic captcha puzzle

          reCAPTCHA v2 vs v3 vs Friendly Captcha

          Friendly Captcha is a privacy focused CAPTCHA solution made in Germany that excels in providing advanced security, user experience, and accessibility, ensuring a smooth and accessible experience for all users. It relies on advanced cryptographic puzzles, analyzing risk signals and difficulty scaling technologies to promote a consistent frictionless user experience and improved accessibility.

          Let’s compare the privacy, security and UX of reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 with Friendly Captcha.

          Friendly Captcha offers robust privacy and advanced protection and is fully GDPR compliant. It works without HTTP cookies, without persistent browser storage and without fingerprinting. Both reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3, on the other hand, require cookie data to distinguish human behavior from bots.

          With its advanced cryptographic puzzles working in the browsers background Friendly Captcha ensures effective bot detection and bot protection eliminating user interaction and user friction. The advanced background puzzles of Friendly Captcha are in contrast to the simple image recognition tasks of reCAPTCHA v2 and the reCAPTCHA v3 fallback solutions.

          Friendly Captcha is designed to offer a frictionless user experience. It comes with a seamless integration and doesn’t disrupt the user experience. Friendly Captcha provides a smooth user experience. It comes out-of-the-box, can be seamlessly integrated, and requires no manual user tasks such as clicking on images. Both reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3 always have an impact on the UX, because in many cases image CAPTCHAs will have to be deployed.

          When deciding between reCAPTCHA v2 vs v3 vs Friendly Captcha, it is important to know your own needs and requirements.

          • reCAPTCHA v2 uses the familiar “I am not a robot” checkbox and image challenges. It is a simple solution with good user detection, but it has limited ability to prevent bot traffic and to detect sophisticated bots. At the same time, it affects the user experience.

          • reCAPTCHA v3 improves the user experience by working mostly in the background and using a reCAPTCHA score to determine whether a user is a human or a bot. However, it still requires manual tasks in some cases, collects user data, and uses cookies, which raises privacy concerns.

          • Friendly Captcha, a privacy-friendly and accessible CAPTCHA service, uses invisible CAPTCHAs for verification. It requires no image challenges and provides a seamless user experience. Friendly Captcha does not store personal data, making it a great choice for anyone concerned about accessibility, data privacy, and GDPR compliance.

          If usability and privacy are your top priorities, Friendly Captcha is the best choice. In terms of accessibility, Friendly Captcha surpasses both reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3. The two versions of reCAPTCHA are largely based on visual challenges, which are not only challenging for people with visual impairments or other disabilities, but also potentially exclude them. In contrast, Friendly Captcha was designed with inclusion and privacy in mind.

            Feature reCAPTCHA v2 reCAPTCHA v3 Friendly Captcha
            Advanced Bot Protection
            Image Labelling Tasks
            Truly Invisible CAPTCHA
            Int. Third Country Transfer
            User Data Storage
            Cookie Usage
            Barrier-free Access


            We compared reCAPTCHA v2 vs. v3 and took a closer look at their respective features. In terms of privacy, reCAPTCHA v2 appears to use fewer cookies than the invisible reCAPTCHA v3, but reCAPTCHA v2 uses more image recognition puzzles. In terms of security and usability, reCAPTCHA v3 is superior to its predecessor due to its comprehensive behavioral analysis and nearly invisible user experience.

            At the same time, we have found that both reCAPTCHA versions are not suitable for professional bot protection that complies with accessibility requirements and data protection regulations. There are many concerns and legal ambiguities that remain unaddressed.

            Friendly Captcha ensures full transparency. As an out-of-the-box privacy friendly CAPTCHA solution, Friendly Captcha is compliant with data protection laws such as GDPR, PIPL and CCPA. Friendly Captcha reliably identifies bots and risks. Based on risk signals, the level of difficulty of the invisible background puzzles is adjusted so that attacks can be fended off professionally. Friendly Captcha provides a seamless user experience with a clear focus on accessibility.

            Compared to reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3, Friendly Captcha is the superior choice for organizations looking for an accessible, privacy-friendly and user-friendly CAPTCHA solution.

            Try Friendly Captcha by signing up for a free trial.



            To migrate from reCAPTCHA v2 to reCAPTCHA v3, you will need to complete the following steps: After registering for reCAPTCHA v3 on the Google website, you will receive a new reCAPTCHA API key. Update the backend and frontend of your website and replace the reCAPTCHA v2 key with the new reCAPTCHA v3 key. Adjust the code to run reCAPTCHA v3 in the background and modify the server-side verification to determine how to handle the reCAPTCHA risk score in the advanced settings.

            For a more privacy-friendly approach, consider using Friendly Captcha, an accessible, privacy-compliant and secure alternative to reCAPTCHA.

            reCAPTCHA v3 is generally considered to be better than reCAPTCHA v2 for most applications. Mainly because as an invisible reCAPTCHA it provides a more user-friendly experience and security features by performing its risk analysis in the background without interrupting the user with a CAPTCHA challenge.

            However, reCAPTCHA v3 requires more configuration to set thresholds and responses based on the risk score it provides. In contrast, Friendly Captcha is an out-of-the-box solution that effectively protects websites from bots without using unnecessary cookies, data processing, and accessibility issues.

            As an alternative to reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3, Friendly Captcha is strongly focused on usability, accessibility, and user privacy.

            Friendly Captcha does not track users for marketing purposes and does not store personal data, making it privacy compliant and suitable for privacy-conscious users and websites.

            Additionally, Friendly Captcha is accessible and user-friendly for people with impairments, as no interactive challenges are required. Friendly Captcha provides reliable protection against bots while prioritizing usability and privacy.

            The two versions reCAPTCHA v2 and v3 differ primarily in terms of user interaction and security mechanisms. With reCAPTCHA v2, users must actively confirm that they are not a bot by clicking a checkbox or solving a picture challenge. reCAPTCHA v3 works in the background, analyzing user behavior to determine the likelihood of being a bot. This makes reCAPTCHA v3 more user friendly and less intrusive than reCAPTCHA v2. reCAPTCHA v2, on the other hand, is easier to implement and can be more straightforward for users accustomed to visible security measures.

            However, when comparing reCAPTCHA v2 or reCAPTCHA v3 to the European provider Friendly Captcha, the latter is superior in the areas of privacy, security and accessibility.

            The best CAPTCHA solution depends on the specific requirements. In terms of usability, privacy and security, reCAPTCHA v2 and reCAPTCHA v3 and Friendly Captcha are very different.

            Friendly Captcha stands out as the best CAPTCHA solution compared to Google’s CAPTCHA, as it prioritizes usability, does not track users, and is fully accessible.

            Friendly Captcha is fully privacy compliant. It works smoothly in the background without requiring any manual interaction from the user.