Hate paywalls? 12ft.io is the answer

Paywalls offend me. The Internet exists to share knowledge with everyone across the world. You shouldn’t need a subscription, all you should need is an internet connection to access the world’s knowledge.

Tl;dr: Simply prepend “12ft.io” to the start of the URL for any article you want to read. Et voila!

They’re everywhere

And yet an increasing number of news sites are including a “paywall” of some type. At this point it’s pretty rare to find a professional news site without gatekeeping of some kind - even those bankrolled by billionaires (washingtonpost.com, theintercept.com).

They’re laughable

Some of them just pretent to block content, simply forcing you to click “not now” or similar to access the content (theguardian.com, independent.co.uk), some force you to subscribe (theintercept.com), some appear to block content altogether (ft.com). However, they are all trivial to bypass. This is basically because at the end of the day they all want Google to be able to index their content.

Types of paywalls

Most sites block content with a simple JavaScript-generated facade, and bypassing them is as simple as disabling JavaScript. The Firefox Reader View is fantastic for bypassing paywalls of this type.

Others only let you view a certain number of articles (economist.com, medium.com) before blocking you. Bypassing these is as simple as deleting cookies, or viewing the article in a private browsing window.

The FT is the most interesing one. Many of their articles are blocked right away. But the trick here is to copy the title of the article, paste it into google.com, click on the link from Google and presto - the article is visible.

12ft.io is the silver bullet

I used to go through all these tricks manually to read the content I wanted. It wasn’t that hard, and there’s a certain satisfaction in outsmarting the paywall. But now I’ve found a much easier way.

12ft.io is beautiful. All you have to do is add “12ft.io/” to the beginning of the URL for any article you want to read. E.g., if I want to read this article:

https://www.ft.com/content/c7480de9-323a-410b-889b-dd24bbee593d

All I have to do is enter this in my browser:

12ft.io/https://www.ft.com/content/c7480de9-323a-410b-889b-dd24bbee593d

And boom! The article is open to me.

It’s so well designed, to have such a short easy to remember domain that’s trivial to add to the beginning. I love it.


By @nottrobin