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 fee. 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.
It’s mostly news websites that have paywalls, largely because relying on advertising income alone just isn’t viable anymore, and news companies are pursuing more direct revenue sources like monthly subscriptions. And, of course, we’re not against paywalls—and you probably aren’t either. 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 by signing up for memberships—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.
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 labelled display, paywall, or subscribe. Here’s a neat GIF on Reddit that shows you how to get it done.
Try browser add-ons
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), or Bypass Paywalls Clean (Firefox). For academic articles, Unpaywall (Firefox, Chrome) is a good choice.
A simple website created with the sole purpose of skipping paywalls, 12ft.io provides a simple solution to this problem. The website is probably the most user-friendly solution here. Simply paste the link on the “Remove Paywall” bar and click it. The website will show you the cached, “unpaywalled version” of the page. The only problem is that it does not work on all websites. 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 per cent of the time I have used it.