How to bypass any paywall on the web
I recently stumbled across a website called 12ft. It is a site that can remove most paywalls and allows you to access the content lurking behind them. I have always found paywalls extremely annoying but I had never really thought about the fact you may be able to get past them. This site got me thinking about paywalls, how they work and other means to bypass them.
As someone who is trying to make a little bit of money online, I find myself in a bit of a quandary with writing this post but then again, I pay for content I feel is valuable and If I don’t consider it to be valuable then I won’t pay for it. I can only assume you would all do the same. Therefore if you are now reading this my moral compass clearly swayed towards the “Argh, it’s a pirate’s life for me” and I am sharing my findings with you.
Jump ahead to find out how to dodge those pesky paywalls:
How 12ft works
12ft is undoubtedly a great website but it has got me thinking, how does it work? Well on the surface it is pretty straight forward but technically I still don’t really have a clue.
The surface-level answer - Most sites that have a paywall, if not all, still want their content to be found by all the big search engines. They want this so that you and I find their sites when we search for something related to them. If, however, all of their content was hidden behind a paywall then Google, for instance, wouldn’t be able to see any of it. Therefore, these paywalled sites follow a set of rules, set out by the search engines, which enable the site to tell if the visitor is a search engine or a willing punter. If the visitor is a search engine the content is willingly offered up but if the visitor is a person, like me or you, then we get a paywall instead. A bit mean really isn’t it?
This here is how 12ft works, it simply pretends to be a search engine. Via only what I can presume is witchcraft, it knocks on the door of the website and says “Hi, I’m a search engine. Can I take a look at your content so people can find it?” - “Sure thing” says the website and hands over the goods. We do some reading, realise why we don’t pay for the site in the first place and move on.
All this got me thinking - “I wonder if there are any other ways of dodging a paywall?” as I soon found out that some sites have a 14ft paywall and even though our ladder is endowed, experienced and turgid, it is only 12ft and sometimes size does really matter…
Copy the paywalled URL
Paste your URL on the 12ft website
Click the Remove Paywall button
Prefix your URL
A slightly faster means than the method above - Take the below text and paste this at the start of your URL. Your URL should then end up looking something like this - https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https://www.ft.com/content
Fourth Wall Tip - Use Keyboard Maestro
I have created a Keyboard Maestro script that automatically alters the URL for you. Check it out below.
Download ZIP • 11KB
Safari - No Extension :(
Annoyingly I couldn’t find an extension for my daily browser, Safari (If you know of one please let me know), so I wrote a Keyboard Maestro script to do it for me.
Download ZIP • 12KB
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Reading View - Be Quick
I have found that sometimes if you are quick, you can launch Reading View before the site is fully loaded. letting you read the content before the paywall kicks in. There appears to be a sweet spot where the content you want is loaded but the paywall has not. If you enter reading mode at this point you can cut it off before it kicks in.
Safari - ⇧ + ⌘ + R
Firefox - ⌥ + ⌘ + R
Chrome requires you to enable Reading View
Private Browsing - My favourite member of the army core
Some websites, like Medium for example, often allow you to read a defined number of articles for free before then kindly blocking you from their content. In this case, once you have used up your quota of free articles, you can fire up an incognito window to spoof the site into thinking that you have only just arrived and get another batch of free articles. Once you run out, close that incognito window and open up another. Unlimited articles for all
Private Browsing always reminds me of this Mock the Week clip 😂
I hope you found this post of use. I am always trying to write about things I find interesting but also I am trying to write articles that you, my readers, will also find engaging and of benefit.
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