Freeloaders across the web shuddered at reports that The New York Times had plugged its once easily penetrable pay wall on Monday night. No need to shudder, freeloaders. You can still, er, load for free.
Let's start with the bad news. As Joe Coscarelli confirmed on New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer blog, the URL altering trick — "deleting the '?gwh=numbers' section of the URL" — that used to give anyone access to any Times article had stopped working by Monday evening. It was inevitable, in a way. "When we launched our digital subscription plan we knew there were loopholes to access our content beyond the allotted number of articles each month," Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy explained to Coscarelli. "We have made some adjustments and will continue to make adjustments to optimize the gateway by implementing technical security solutions to prohibit abuse and protect the value of our content." People were upset by the news.
No need to fret, penny-pinching friends. The good news is that The Times did "make some adjustments to optimize the gateway," but they didn't close all of the holes. At the time of this writing, the infamous NYClean bookmarklet still worked wonderfully. In effect, the bookmarklet works much like deleting the extra junk at the end of the URL, but instead of just changing the URL, it actually strips the webpage itself of the code that causes the obtrusive "Subscribe Now" box to cover up the article you want to read. The Times is well aware of NYClean, so aware that they actually threatened legal action against the bookmarklet's coder David Hayes a few days after the tool's release. They didn't want him to disable the bookmarklet, though. They just wanted him to change the name from the original NYTClean. It was bad branding. Hayes cooperated by dropping a "T" from the name, and his bookmarklet kept working.
Now, nearly two years after it launched and as The Times starts cracking down on freeloaders, it still works. Of course, The Times might decide on Tuesday that they need to close the loophole that lets NYClean users through needs to go, too. Until then, go nuts with it. And after that, make your clicks count.