Why Mozilla's decision to remove Bypass Paywalls Clean extension is a wake-up call for internet users everywhere
Bypass Paywalls Clean is a popular extension for Firefox, Chrome, which as the name suggests, circumvents paid subscriptions on popular websites, allowing users to read the content for free. The add-on is no longer available on Mozilla's add-on store (AMO).
Mozilla removes Bypass Paywalls Clean extension from its add-ons repository
It is unclear why the add-on has been removed, The developer claims that Mozilla took it off the repository without any notification.
Update: A Mozilla spokesperson provided the following comment:
“Mozilla received a copyright takedown notice regarding this addon and forwarded it to the developer, along with instructions about how to submit a counter-notice. We haven’t received a counter-notice from this developer.”
Bypass Paywalls Clean was removed by Mozilla from the add-on store (without notification) ...
For updates you can switch to the non-amo version though (export your custom sites first): https://t.co/6O1bYKAbed
For Android you have to switch to Kiwi browser (Chromium).
— magnolia1234_bpc (@Magnolia1234B) February 10, 2023
I already explained the add-on's functionality in the first line of this article. Now, it is possible that one of the sites hit the Bypass Paywalls Clean add-on with a DMCA notice, which in turn could have resulted in Mozilla delisting the extension from its store. I'm not entirely sure about this, because if that was the case, wouldn't Mozilla have notified the developer? Or maybe it breached some clause in the terms and conditions of the repository. We can't tell that for sure, all that we know is that you can no longer download the plugin from the add-ons store.
The developer says that they have updated the add-on to version 3.5.0. You may not see the update even if you already have the extension, because it has been delisted. You can, however, opt-to install the signed version by side-loading the XPI from the project's GitLab releases page. If you choose to go with that version, you should export your custom filters before switching.
Not many people may like installing add-ons (even if they are signed) that are not hosted on Mozilla's site, for security reasons. The good news it that the author of the add-on also maintains a filter list that you can use with ad blockers, so you will get the same functionality without the extension, at least as far as the popular sites are concerned. Here's how to use it.
How to bypass paywalled articles using uBlock Origin
1. Click on the uBlock Origin icon in your browser.
2. Switch to the Filter lists tab.
3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click the checkbox next to "Import".
4. This will allow you to use custom filter lists. Paste the following URL in the text box.
5. Click on the Apply changes button at the top of the page. You should see a new filter labelled "Bypass Paywalls Clean filter".
That's it, the filter is ready to use. Try it by going to a website that has a paywall, and you should be able to access the articles for free.
This method works with Firefox, Waterfox, Chrome, Vivaldi, Edge, and Brave, basically any browser that supports uBlock Origin, Adblock Plus, etc., that supports custom filter lists.
Note: The website for the filter list mentions that it can be used with other ad blocker apps for mobile like AdGuard for iOS, Samsung Internet browser, etc. I haven't tried these so YMMV, I use the filter on Firefox for Android.
If you don't want to use the ad blocker filter, you can choose to subscribe to the Bypass Paywalls Clean user script via the Violentmonkey (for Firefox or Chrome), or similar extensions. The user script is available in 9 languages, and can be found on GitLab.
I use the add-on frequently to research stuff, learn new things. This is how the internet should be, free for everyone, without censorship and restrictions.
How to install Bypass Paywalls Clean on Firefox
- Go to the add-on's GitLab page.
- The Releases page contains a link for the Bypass Paywalls Clean XPI file.
- Click on the latest version to download it, and save it to your computer.
- Open the about:addons page in Firefox.
- Click the gear cog icon at the top of the page. It's located below the search bar.
- Select "Install add-on from file."
- Navigate to the folder where you saved the add-on, and select the XPI file.
- Firefox will ask you whether you would like to install the extension. Click the add button to approve the installation.
This is a one time process, you don't have to repeat it to update the add-on. You may update Bypass Paywalls Clean directly from the about:addons page > Check for updates.
Risks of installing add-ons from other sources
While Bypass Paywalls Clean is safe to use, not all add-ons out there are made with good intentions. Hackers often release malicious extensions that may infect your browser, and steal your browsing data, passwords, payment details such as credit card information.
You need to pay attention to where you are getting the add-ons from, though sometimes attackers may mimic official sites with malicious clones. One way of staying safe to only install add-ons that are popular among users, and have been reviewed by blogs.
This will help you find out whether the developer can be trusted, and if the extension itself is safe to use or not.
You may also want to consider restricting yourself to open source extensions, as you can check the source code to see if it is clean. I also recommend checking the permissions that an add-on may request when you try to install it, as these could also be misused, for example, to redirect you to malware domains.
Note: There is an add-on called Bypass Paywalls, which is actually the original one. However, it uses Google analytics (in the Chrome version), you can verify that by checking its source code (Background.js mentions it). Bypass Paywalls Clean is a fork of it without the telemetry, hence the name "Clean".