The startup reCaptcha always held a special place in my heart: It satisfied Tim O’Reilly’s plea to ‘make stuff that matters’ in not one but two ways. The firm helped blogs, forums and other sites that allowed user submissions to cut down on spam by verifying that the submitters were human. They did that by showing two words, one they knew about and one they didn’t from a scanned book. If the user got the first one right, they assumed they got the second one as well (I am assuming they ran multiple tests with unknown words to make sure they did). The idea was ingenious and it’s good to see they found a home in Google today.
The business was likely tough, but I am assuming the folks who wanted scanned material transcribed were willing to pay money for that service. And the company was like the only one in the world that could undercut Indian and Chinese labor.