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FT.com Pay Wall: No Free Articles Except Through Google Search, Tricky Browser Add-On

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FT.com has erected its long-anticipated pay wall, using a model that allows no free access to articles unless users — even those who are unregistered — happen to access an article via Google search.

FT.com prefers that its readers register, even for free access, because it allows the publication to gather demographic information valuable to advertisers as well as potentially paving the way for users to eventually upgrade their subscription for an annual fee.

In the past three yeas, the website has gone from offering unregistered readers five free articles each month and 25 each month to those who had registered, but had elected not to pay a subscription fee, to offering a grand total of zero free articles. One loophole, however, is that visitors who access FT.com via Google search may view a specific article for free as part of the web company’s “First-Click-Free” plan.

After the jump, discover another “cheat code” of sorts.


And then there’s BreakThePayWall! (exclamation point not optional!) – a browser extension developed to allow users to circumvent pay walls. The extension, available through Internet Explorer with a Firefox version in the works, works by deleting cookies that sites — like FT.com — use to count the number of articles users have viewed in a given amount of time until they reach their limit for free content.

According to BreakTheWall’s website, it is “not designed to work on subscription only websites. BreakthePaywall! is designed to work solely on those websites that initially allow you to view free content but after doing so, for example, 3 times, then ask you to register and/or pay to view any further content within the website. BreakthePaywall! will also work with sites that allow full access when viewed from news aggregation search sites.”

The product’s develop, who elected to remain anonymous, told paidContent that “the pay wall thing came about because of our annoyance at how easy it is to get around them. Lots of compromises are made and basic security not adhered to. The utility currently uses cookie and referrer techniques – we have not come across any other techniques… yet.”

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