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How to Get Past a Paywall to Read an Article for Free

Originally posted on lifehacker.

These are the best tools to bypass a paywall (but you should still support journalism when you can).

Over the past several years, countless websites have added paywalls. If you want to read their articles, you have to sign up and pay a monthly subscription cost. Some sites have a “metered” paywall—meaning you can read a certain number of articles for free before they ask for money—and others have a hard paywall, where you’ll have to pay to read even one article.

Paywalls are mostly an thing with news websites, largely because relying on advertising income alone isn’t a viable strategy anymore, and news companies are pursuing more direct revenue sources (like monthly subscriptions). Of course, paywalls aren’t entirely a bad thing—it’s worth it to support journalism you find valuable, so by all means, if you can afford to pay to read articles, you absolutely should. But whether you lost your password, haven’t saved it on your phone, are in a rush, or are just strapped for cash and promise yourself that you’ll subscribe later, there are several ways to bypass paywalls on the internet.

You may be able to use some of these methods successfully today, but that could change in the future as websites clamp down on bypass methods. I hope that you support the websites that you read—especially your friendly local news outlet—but if you can’t right now, here are some of the best ways to bypass paywalls online.

Paste the headline into Google

The simplest ways are often the best. There are plenty of paywalled websites that have an arrangement that lets people arriving from Google search access their articles for free. Your first port of call should be to copy the headline and paste it into the search bar on Google. The article should appear as the first result, so just click that to read it for free.

Try a Facebook redirect

Some paywalled websites let readers arriving from Facebook read articles for free, and the method works even if you don’t have a Facebook account. To do it, open the article you want to read and go to the address bar of your web browser. Now paste https://facebook.com/l.php?u= before the URL of the paywalled article and open the page. This’ll show you a Facebook redirect page, and you can click Follow Link to open the website. The paywalled article should now be free to read.

Open the link in an incognito window

Another quick way is to open the paywalled articles in an incognito window in your web browser. Just note that this method works with metered paywalls only. If you’ve used up your free article quota for the month on any website, opening its articles in an incognito window could let you keep reading without paying yet.

Disable JavaScript in your browser

Some websites use JavaScript to hide content behind paywalls, and you can circumvent those blocks by disabling JavaScript in your browser. Note that disabling JavaScript can (and will) break most websites—some may not let you view comments, while others may not load at all. But it’s worth trying if you just need to read the content of the post.

Ideally, you’d use a separate browser for this so that you don’t have to keep enabling and disabling JavaScript. Once you’ve chosen your secondary browser, check out our guide to disabling JavaScript in various ones.

Use a VPN

Some paywalled sites, like The Washington Post, will let you read a limited number of articles for free each month, then throw up the wall once you’ve hit the limit. You can use a VPN to change up your IP address and trick the site into giving you more freebies. This method won’t help you on sites that don’t offer any free access, but it’s worth trying, and will work with both paid and free VPNs.

Edit a couple of elements on the webpage

If you understand a bit of HTML and CSS, you can edit elements using your browser to go past some paywalls. Essentially, you’re editing the page to remove the banners that lock content behind a subscription. It’s a lot like opening the curtains to reveal the nice view outside your window.

It works with some websites, but others have added a hard block that reveals the article only if you’ve signed in with a paid account. Still, it’s worth trying once to see if it works:

On any website, right-click the banner just below the last visible sentence of the article and select Inspect Element. This will open up a console where you can search for the offending elements and hide or change them. The exact element varies from site to site, but it’s often labeled displaypaywall, or subscribe. Here’s a neat GIF on Reddit that shows you how to get it done.

Try a browser add-on

There are lots of browser extensions that allow you to bypass paywalls on most websites. You can check out Bypass Paywalls (works on Chrome, Edge, and Firefox). For academic articles, Unpaywall (FirefoxChrome) is a good choice. For Chrome or Edge, you can also try Postlight Reader, which can also do you the favor of cleaning away the clutter of ads and generally making online content easier to read.

Use 12ft.io (or try 1ft.io)

12ft.io, is a simple website created with the sole purpose of breaking through paywalls—and it’s so simple to use, it appears to have become an easy target for those who’d like to keep you from easily bypassing a paywall. A few months ago, the site was taken offline (the link returned an error message reading ”This Deployment has been disabled. Your connection is working correctly. Vercel is working correctly,” whatever that means). It’s now back, but who knows for how long. Fortunately, there’s an alternative that works in much the same way, 1ft.io.

To use either site, simply paste the link in the text field and hit “Submit.” (Alternately, you can type “https://1ft.io/” before the URL in your browser bar.) Both websites will sthen how you the cached, “unpaywalled version” of the page. The only problem is that these sites do not work on all websites (The Wall Street Journal being a notable example). If you get the “access denied” message, try this next tool.

Archive the page to bypass the paywall

Archive.today is a website that archives any website you paste the link on their bar. It’s like taking a screenshot of any website with a time stamp (a self-described “time capsule,” if you will). It “saves a text and a graphical copy of the page for better accuracy” and gives you a short link to an unalterable record of any web page. And you can use this to read the entire article and bypass the paywall. If the website you’re trying to bypass isn’t already archived (it would show up after pasting the link on the black “I want to search the archive for saved snapshots” bar), then put it on the red “My URL is alive and I want to archive its content.” This tool has worked 100% of the time I have used it.

Check out paywall bypass shortcuts on Android

If you are trying to read a paywalled article on an Android phone, you can get around it with the Bypass Paywalls Clean browser extension. This extension used to be available for Firefox but has been removed from the Mozilla store. However, you can add it to a different browser; Reddit users recommend trying the Kiwi browser.

Check out paywall bypass shortcuts on iPhone

The last method on our list works only on iPhones: Apple’s free Shortcuts app lets you run automation routines on your iPhone, and its tools have been used to bypass paywalls on various websites. There are plenty of these shortcuts, and they may all not work with all websites. Get started by trying AntiPaywallBypass PaywallPaywall and Cookie Bypass, or Unpaywall.

Source: lifehacker


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