Getting around New York Times' article limit? Still possible

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 14, 2013

Contents on the New York Times website are protected by a paywall. What this means is that visitors get a certain contingent of free articles they can read in full before they receive a notification that they have reached the article limit for that month. To continue reading, visitors need to subscribe to the magazine to do so or find a way around the wall.

Just like any other form of protection on the Internet, the NYT's paywall has its holes that enable visitors to bypass the limitation. One of the easiest ones, removing a couple of characters in the address, has now been fixed by the company operating the website. It took the site operators two years to plug the hole. Why did it take so long? The most likely explanation is that there was no need to fix it. The operators likely know very well that there are ways to bypass the paywall, and that is probably fine with them as long as those options do not become mainstream.

Users who dedicated time and effort to read articles on the New York Times website for free are not likely to subscribe to the site if they are hit by the paywall. Regular readers on the other hand may not have the technical expertise to do the same thing, making it more likely that they will subscribe to the magazine to continue reading if there are not commonplace options available to circumvent the protection.

What the operators of the site need to make sure of is that methods that become too common can't be used to circumvent the protection.

As far as options to bypass the paywall go, there are still many that have not been closed yet. Firefox NoScript users for instance won't ever get the notification as it is triggered by JavaScript code which simply does not run when the add-on is active. In fact, they may never know that the New York Times website is limiting the articles on the site to visitors.

Other options may include clearing cookies or reading NYT articles in a browser's incognito mode.

For the technical inclined. The JavaScript file gwy.js seems to be responsible right now for all gateway activity. It is served from different addresses depending on where you are on the website.


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  1. Compuitguy said on March 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    there are a couple of userscripts that seem to be working

    NY Times Paywall Remover

    NYTimes Article Limit Remover

    1. Jojo said on March 17, 2013 at 11:34 pm

      Thanks. I installed the 2nd script just for extra good luck in case I have to reenable NYT scripts.

  2. Jojo said on March 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    The NYClear bookmarklet doesn’t appear to work anymore. Nor does manually clearing cookies either???

    Maybe they have started using Flash Cookies or something else?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Can’t really say, only that I do not seem to get any limitations when I’m accessing the site with NoScript enabled.

      1. Jojo said on March 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm

        I hadn’t tried that. I was allowing and scripts through NoScript. I blocked them and now I get the full article.

        So looks like they integrated their blocking into their primary scripts instead of using cookies?

        I’ll see how long it works for.


      2. Martin Brinkmann said on March 18, 2013 at 3:32 am

        Can’t say what they did, only that they are likely using JavaScript to power it, and that is what NoScript is blocking.

  3. Anonymous said on February 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

    This is great and why I read your blog everytime it is in my email box. I have been ticked off everytime I get redirected or blocked when looking at NYT or LA times. Just opening in the chrome incognito window is a great fix/solution. Only minor problem is my instapaper doesn’t work in that window then… I guess I could delete the cookies as mentioned in the article. Any other ideas?

  4. Shawn said on February 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Too funny asked the wife she remembered the tool..

    Aardvark Firefox Extension

  5. Shawn said on February 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    There is a plug-in I used to have for firefox I’ll try to find it’s name and get back to you what it did was open pages object per object and asked if you wanted it open or not. This was useful for pages that end up opening a grey square on the screen to block the information I’m sure it will work just as well.. I’ll get hunting for it and get back to you with the program name.

  6. Transcontinental said on February 14, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I’ve searched with Adblock+ for gwy.js on unsuccessfully.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 14, 2013 at 7:37 am

      You are right, I do not see it anymore either. Several files seem responsible now, like mtr.js and meter.js

      1. Transcontinental said on February 14, 2013 at 10:02 am

        Disallowing javascript as a whole for leads to several gaps. On another hand, finding the right script which handles only the one feature we wish to disable is not always obvious (when it is not adblocked, of course).
        Anyway, if the reader has a subscription or is an occasional visitor as myself, the impact is not outrageous, even if it is that one article you wish to read that becomes unavailable.

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