So you’ve been surfing the web, exploring the vastness of the internet. Until, baam… you slammed into a paywall. The internet is no longer as free as you once thought.
In this article, you will learn about the best Chrome extensions to bypass a paywall. If a paywall can be bypassed, these extensions will help you do it.
To learn more about paywalls and how they work, check out our complete guide to bypassing paywalls.
Before we dive into the extensions themselves, here is a drill down on paywalls.
Paywalls come in two types - soft and hard. A website with a soft paywall loads the entire article into the browser and then puts a curtain over the content by visually abstracting it with a popup or an overlay. Websites with a hard paywall, on the other hand, don’t load any content until verifying that you are a subscriber.
So these extensions use different approaches to bypass paywalls. Soft paywall extensions take down the curtain or extract the content from the article’s HTML, whereas hard paywalls pretend to be a robot.
Now, here come the extensions to bypass a paywall.
Bardeen - best for hard paywalls
Bardeen is an extension that automates your manual computer tasks with a shortcut.
Unlike most extensions, this automation can bypass even hard paywalls.
Here is how it works. Most articles get scrapped regularly by public web archives. Bardeen will find your article in those web archives and open them.
Try it out! Pick any article from the Economist to see this playbook in action.
ReaderMode - best for soft paywalls
ReaderMode makes articles easier to read. And coincidentally by stripping the design from websites, ReaderMode also removes soft paywalls that come in the form of popups and overlays.
We love ReaderMode because it makes articles easier to read and helps you focus on the actual content you read. You can use both Bardeen and ReaderMode in a combination. First, bypass a hard paywall with Bardeen. And then launch Reader mode to make it pretty.
Unpaywall - scientific articles
Unpaywall is a Chrome extension that unlocks access to 30+ million scientific articles and makes science more accessible.
Here is how it works. You do your research the same way as before. Then, when you open a scholarly article, Unpaywall automatically looks for a copy in its database.
If the extension finds it, a green “unlock” icon will appear on your screen. Click it to get redirected to the full article.
And in case you are wondering, it’s entirely legal. Turns out that most scholarly journals allow their authors to “self-archive" papers on university and government web servers. So technically, you can think about “bypassing the paywall” as finding that article elsewhere on the internet where it’s free.
Bypass Paywall - works with tricky websites
Bypass Paywall will bypass paywalls on 160+ news websites. The creator of this extension went through the most popular news outlets manually and wrote custom logic to bypass paywalls.
The extension pretends to be a Google search bot, which unlocks articles in most cases.
_useGoogleBotSites = useGoogleBotSites.concat(items.customSites);
The extension is open-source on Github and is not in the Chrome store (pretending to be Google isn’t kosher).
So you will need to install BypassPaywall manually. Here is how:
- Download the zip from Github
- Unzip the file on your computer
- Manually install in Chrome.
Extensions → Enable “Developer Mode” → Click on “Load unpacked”
uBlock Origin stops annoying popups on almost all websites. The extension, by default, can prevent paywall popups from loading. With this extension, you won’t even know there was a popup in the first place.
How to bypassing a paywall manually
Beyond browser extensions, there are other ways to bypass a paywall. Here are a few additional methods to try.
Try these websites
Try the incognito window
In the incognito mode, cookies are cleared and disabled. And thus, you can often just open a paywalled article in the incognito mode to remove the paywall.
To open an incognito window with a shortcut, press Shift + Command + N.
Some websites like Medium have metered paywalls. You can read a few articles but then need to subscribe to see more content.
You can usually bypass those paywalls by removing those cookies. Cookie Remover is a great extension to do exactly that.
Paste the article title in Google search
Google ranks articles based on engagement these days. Imagine someone goes to Google, clicks on the first search result, and then bounces right away because of a paywall.
This is obviously suboptimal for the website’s reputation and SEO, so webmasters often make exceptions for visitors coming directly from Google.
Try copying the article title into Google search and open it from Google. Doing this in the incognito mode can help too.
Pro Tip: if you can’t find the article based on the title, add the domain to search “site:https://www.economist.com/”
Emulate social media
Some websites unlock paywalls when people come from social media websites. Imagine some with a subscription shares an article on Facebook, but his friends can’t read it because of the paywall. To prevent this, some news outlets unlock paywalls for those use cases.
To pretend as if you are coming from Facebook, use this URL and add your article link at the end:
Paywalls often disrupt our flow and force us to sift through many alternatives to find basic information.
You can install extensions to bypass the majority of paywalls, both hard and soft. We recommend you to install multiple extensions from this list above as each extension works differently. This way, you don’t have to think about paywalls ever again. If a paywall can be bypassed, the odds are that these extensions above will successfully do it.
Finally, it’s important to support the journalists you love. It takes hard work to write quality content. If you find someone's article really useful (even if you bypassed the paywall to read it), consider contributing. It does make a difference!
Meanwhile, the traditional media will keep trying to stay afloat with paywalls competing with literally everyone on the internet, which is a losing battle. New sustainable ways to monetize content need to be developed without costs to user experience.
If you want to learn more about bypassing paywalls, check out our complete guide here.