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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.

12ft Homepage

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…

12ft Ladder

As I mentioned at the start, you can use the 12ft website to bypass paywalls on most sites but you will find that some sites don’t allow it to be used, like The Economist.

  1. Copy the paywalled URL

  2. Paste your URL on the 12ft website

  3. Click the Remove Paywall button

Prefix your URL

Prefix 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 -

  • <>

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

JavaScript - Turn it off

Javascript is another method in which websites enforce paywalls on their sites. Fortunately for us, your browser can disable JavaScript; therefore, some sites can’t enforce the paywall and you’re free to browse at your leisure.

Turning off Javascript normally requires you to dig around in the settings of your browser or enter a command into a console window, fortunately, the most popular browsers have extensions that do it for you in one click but not Safari…

Note: Be aware that turning off JavaScript can disable some key features that some websites require in order to work. So make sure you turn it back on afterwards.

Safari - No Extension :(

Preferences > Security > Check Enable JavaScript

Safari JavaScript

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.

Safari - JavaScript.kmmacros
Download ZIP • 12KB


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Reading View - Be Quick

Reading View

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.

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 😂

Wrap Up

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.

I love hearing your feedback so please do feel free to leave a comment and if you believe the content to be worth it please do like and share :) Again, if you want to stay connected you can subscribe at the bottom of the page to make sure you don’t miss a post.

14,769 views2 comments

2 kommentarer

31 okt. 2022

I've recently found that the most reliable way to view pages that are otherwise blocked by a paywall or login dialogue is to use . This is straightforward to do manually (paste the URL into the box on the website). But I've also written Shortcut which gets the URL I want to view from the share sheet input or clipboard, adds it to the end of and then opens the combined URL. This Shortcut appears in the share sheet on iOS. On the Mac I've written an AppleScript that I've assigned a keyboard shortcut to which gets the active Safari tab and passes the URL to the Shortcut:

tell application "Safari" to set vURL to URL of…

Rory Bowcott
Rory Bowcott
31 okt. 2022

Another great string to ad to the paywall bow! Thanks for sharing


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