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NYT Paywall Easily Cracked – By Design

This news is from last week, but since the New York Times ‘paywall’ goes into effect tomorrow, we thought it was quite timely. From Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab:

That was quick: Four lines of code is all it takes for The New York Times’ paywall to come tumbling down

By Joshua Benton
March 21, 2011

The New York Times paywall is costing the newspaper $40-$50 million to design and construct, Bloomberg has reported.

And it can be defeated through four lines of Javascript…

The full text of [any Times] article is still visible in the page source… [T]he overlay is nothing more than a little CSS and Javascript.

Unfortunately for the Times, there are plenty of popular (or popular-among-nerds) tools that tactically remove little bits of CSS and Javascript. There’s Greasemonkey, there’s Stylish — not to mention the ease with which a browser extension in Firefox, Chrome, or Safari can be built to strip out code…

Well, consider the first shot in the NYT paywall battle fired. Canadian coder David Hayes has just released NYTClean, a bookmarklet that, in one click, tears down the Times’ paywall.

“Released” is probably even a little strong — it makes it sound like there was an extended development process. All NYTClean does is call four measly lines of Javascript that hide a couple <div>s and turn page scrolling back on. It barely even qualifies as a hack. But it allows you access to any New York Times story, even when you’re past the monthly limit

Hilariously, this article goes on to suggest that even though the New York Times spent $40 to $50 million dollars erecting this ‘paywall,’ they intended it to be easily defeated:

And yet this workaround is so blindingly obvious to anyone who’s ever worked with code that it’s difficult to imagine it didn’t come up in the paywall planning process. The other major news paywalls — WSJ, FT, The Economist — don’t actually send the entire forbidden article to your browser, then try cover it up with a couple lines of easily reversible code. They just hit you with a message saying, in effect, “Sorry, pay up here” whenever you stray past the free zone…

[The Times] can afford to let nerds game your system. [The Times] probably want them to game your system, because they (a) are unlikely to pay, (b) generate ad revenue, and (c) are more likely to share your content than most

Only the Solons at Harvard school for journalism could concoct such a laughable theory when the truth is so painfully obvious.

The Times screwed up. Big time.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, March 27th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “NYT Paywall Easily Cracked – By Design”

  1. Swamp Thing says:

    This begs the question: does anyone bother to read the NYT any more?

  2. proreason says:

    Are there any people on the planet more stupid than Harvard graduates…or “journalists”?

    • JohnMG says:

      There are no degrees of stupid, just as there are no degrees of dead. Both are absolutes, and both are terminal.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      With Barry the 0 as their posterboy, such issues become academic, to put it plainly.

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