Operating Systems, Applications & Web

Bypass paywall: Tips and hacks for limitless access

The Internet is full of exciting articles, interesting studies and exclusive news. But more and more often we stumble across paywalls that deny us access to this content. A quick glance at the article? No way! Instead, we are asked to sign up for a subscription or pay a one-time amount. But how can we get around this paywall? And why do so many websites rely on paywalls? In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of the paywall phenomenon, look at why more and more websites are hiding their content behind such barriers, and what methods there are to get around them. In the process, we will present various tools and hacks that can help you read articles without subscription and remove the paywall.

Why do so many websites rely on paywalls?

The answer is simple: monetization. At a time when traditional advertising revenues are declining, many online publishers are looking for new ways to monetize their content. Paywalls offer an effective solution here. They allow websites to collect for high-quality content, exclusive reports or special features. This not only has financial benefits for publishers, but also ensures that they can continue to invest in high-quality journalism.

But while paywalls can be beneficial for the websites themselves, they are often a thorn in the side for users. Who wants to be interrupted in the middle of an exciting article by a request for payment? As a result, many are looking for ways to bypass the paywall, whether through special browser extensions, alternative services, or other methods to gain full access to content.

How do paywalls work

When we talk about paywalls, most of us think of the annoying screen that asks us to pay. But what is actually behind it? Paywalls are technically sophisticated systems designed to control access to content. They are divided into two different types: In soft paywall and hard paywall.

Soft Paywalls

This type of paywall allows users to read a limited number of articles per month for free. Only when this limit is reached does a subscription become necessary. It is a model often used by news portals to attract new readers.

Hard Paywalls

This contrasts with hard paywalls, which prevent immediate access to content unless the user registers or pays. Trade magazines or specialized portals often use this stricter form to protect exclusive content.

Bypassing paywalls with browser extensions

In the digital media landscape, paywalls, also known as pay barriers, have become a common way to monetize exclusive content. While they represent a revenue stream for content creators, they can be a hurdle for users seeking information. The question many are asking is how can these paywalls be effectively circumvented?

Earlier methods, such as calling the source or converting the page to a PDF, have become less effective as media companies have technically advanced their paywalls. However, despite these advances, there are still some proven methods and tools that can help users overcome these hurdles, such as browser plugins:

  • Unpaywall: This browser plugin has established itself as a valuable tool for researchers and academics who want to access scholarly articles that are often hidden behind paywalls. Available for both Chrome/Edge and Firefox, it provides an easy way to find free versions of articles by accessing a database of open-access articles.
  • Bypass Paywalls: This add-on, originally developed for Firefox, provides a more comprehensive solution for bypassing paywalls on a variety of news sites.

If you want to get Bypass Paywalls for Chrome/Edge, here’s how to do it:

  1. Download the ZIP file from GitHub
  2. Unzip the file and look for a folder called bypass-paywalls-chrome-master.
  3. Go to the browser extensions in Chrome or Edge.
  4. Activates developer mode.
  5. Drags the named folder to the page for import.

In the English GitHub guide you can also find all (mostly American) sites where the Bypass Paywalls add-on works.

No subscription, no article: This is how classic paywalls work

Another useful hint: Some news portals set a limit on the number of free articles a user can read per month. When this limit is reached, the paywall appears. A simple trick to get around this limit is to delete the cookies of the site or browse in incognito mode. Since this mode does not store browsing data, the article limit is reset and the paywall does not take effect.

Bypassing the paywall with web tools

There are always new web tools that promise to allow access to content behind paywalls. However, it’s important to note that not all tools are equally effective and their effectiveness often depends on the specific website and type of paywall. Here are some of the most popular web tools that are often related to bypassing paywalls:

  • today (also known as archive.ph): This tool is particularly useful for archiving articles and content before they disappear behind a paywall. By pasting the URL of the page you want into archive.today’s search box, you can often find an archived version of the content without the paywall. It works similarly to the Wayback Machine, but focuses more on recent snapshots and often provides a way to bypass paywalls.
  • Wayback Machine: A proven archiving tool that captures the history of the Internet. It regularly takes snapshots of web pages and can be used to view older versions of pages before they were blocked by a paywall. It is useful not only for bypassing paywalls, but also for tracking the evolution of websites over the years.

Besides general archiving tools, there are also specialized web tools designed to bypass paywalls. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • 12ft.io: Previously, this tool was a popular option to bypass paywalls by allowing users to read articles behind paywalls. However, it seems that 12ft.io is no longer active or reliable. It is always advisable to regularly check the current functioning of such tools, as they are often blocked by the websites they bypass.
  • 4based hack and Bestfans hack: These tools are often mentioned in connection with paywall bypassing. However, it is important to note that such “hacks” often operate in legal gray areas and may not be secure or reliable. It is always advisable to use such tools with caution and make sure that you are not violating any laws or terms of service.

However, it is important to emphasize that bypassing paywalls raises ethical issues. Many content providers rely on subscription revenue to produce high-quality content. Therefore, people should always consider whether they are willing to pay for valuable content and support the work of content creators.

Legal and ethical considerations when bypassing paywalls

Bypassing paywalls is not only a technical challenge, but also raises legal and ethical issues.

Legally speaking, users who bypass paywalls are often operating in a gray area. While simply bypassing a paywall is not explicitly illegal in many countries, related actions, such as copying and sharing content, can violate copyright laws. In addition, many websites have terms of service that explicitly prohibit bypassing paywalls. Ignoring these terms can have legal consequences, although in practice they are rarely enforced.

Ethically, there are concerns about fairness to content creators, the value of work, and the long-term impact on the content industry. Many content creators rely on revenue from subscriptions, and circumventing paywalls can hurt their revenue.

Important final question: is all this even legal?

With the tips listed here, you’re mostly within the legal bounds. While plugins are generally freely available and legal to use, some web tools can operate in a legal gray area. It is known that many publishers and libraries are aware of the existence of these tools and have already taken precautions to protect their content. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the legal and ethical issues when choosing to bypass paywalls. Before using the aforementioned tools, you should be well-informed and weigh your options. However, with a little luck and caution, some paywalls might not be an obstacle for you in the future.

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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In times of adblockers and declining print revenues, most publishers and magazines finance themselves through so-called paywalls. You’re probably familiar with this: an exciting headline beckons, you click on the article – and are greeted with various subscription rates. If you don’t want to do that, you can help yourself with a few tricks. We … (Weiterlesen...)

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