This is partially an IMAutomator update post and partly an editorial. A large part of the work involved in keeping IMAutomator growing is site support – that is, the inclusion of new sites into the IMAutomator system to be submitted to.
Those members who have been with us for a while may have noticed that the number of social bookmarking sites in particular seems to have hovered around the 30 mark for quite some time. We haven’t been sitting on our butts doing nothing 🙂 Just today, I went through almost 100 potential sites and not a single one of them could be used because they all had a CAPTCHA on the submission page.
The trouble is that webmasters don’t like tools like IMAutomator! They don’t want our automated engine to submit to their site, they want you personally to go visit the site and click on their ads while you’re there. So they put in measures such as the CAPTCHA to prevent automation – and it works!
Well, it kind of works… These captchas can in fact be broken in an automated way but not for free. ‘Broken’ is perhaps the wrong word – there are services now that offer to solve captchas quickly for a small fee and they offer ways in which to integrate into software such as ours. We have tested this and it works but the trouble is the small fee!
It costs around $2 for 1000 submissions which seems like a tiny amount, but with the sheer cvolume of submissions that are made by IMAutomator (over 23 million at the time of writing!) we cannot absorb the cost.
However, it is possible for us to implement a feature that will allow members to plug in their details for the service (we use the most popular one called Decaptcher) into IMAutomator. We ran a poll on the site a few months ago asking if members wanted it and it seems as though it would be popular but the number of votes on the poll was still a tiny fraction of the overall member base so I fear it would only be used for the minority.
I have been putting off implementing the Decaptcher support. My thinking is that if I can provide an entirely automated and free service then I will but I think these days are growing scarce. I have even hired additional staff to help with site support to try and get more sites in the system but we keep hitting that same brick wall.
On the other hand I have a huge list of sites that could be added if we used Decaptcher support. The costs for the member should be minimal. We would ensure it would be highly configurable – members could specify the minimum PR of sites on which it was used, could select a maximum number of CAPTCHA based sites to use for a submission and turn it off completely for selected submissions.
Assuming it was used with 10 sites, that would cost $0.02 – just 2 cents. If you submitted 100 links a month (not many members use their full allowance) and each of those went to 10 sites that would be a cost of $2 a month.
We will of course continue to try to find free sites to submit to but I may need to bring in Decaptcher support fairly soon!