AI-Written Javascript Paywall Jumper


This is kind of cool and possibly awful. 

I recently was exposed to, via an algorithm, a YouTube Short about getting around paywalls. They claimed that when encountering an article behind a paywall if the text ‘archive.is/’ is added at beginning of a URL, it takes the reader to an archive of the article, thus avoiding the paywall. I tested it and it seems to work with New York Times and The Globe and Mail. I haven’t tested others yet.

I knew that I would quickly forget this prefix, and had the idea that it would be handy to have this be an automatic replacement and then I remembered about bookmarklets. By creating a bookmark with a bit of Javascript, interesting programmatic things can happen. This simple text replacement task seemed like a good match for the idea.

With plenty of time and patience, I might have been able to figure this out myself. Cue much searching for code samples and tweaking to get it to work. Instead, I asked the AI-based ChatGPT to write me a bookmarklet. In 30 seconds, I had my response. I added the Bookmarklet and it works! Call me pretty impressed.

Here are the screenshots of my GPT chat:

The Bookmarklet

javascript:(function() {
  function addArchiveIs(url) {
    if (url.startsWith("https://")) {
        return url.replace("https://", "https://archive.is/");
    } else {
        return "Error: Not a valid URL";
    }
  }
  var currentUrl = window.location.href;
  var archiveUrl = addArchiveIs(currentUrl);
  window.open(archiveUrl, '_blank');
})();

Add it as a Bookmark to Your Browser

Create a new bookmark (On a Mac with Safari – Command-D) of any random web page and then choose Edit Bookmarks and change the name of the page and paste the javascript into the URL field.

To add it to almost any browser, create a new bookmark on any web page that you are on, and then edit the URL line by copy and pasting the Javascript function in to the URL field. Rename it something you will remember such as ‘Jump Paywall’. To invoke it, simply click the Bookmarklet on the paywalled article.

The bookmarklet appears to work on my iPad as well.

Cool? Awful?

This is cool because it shows the power of AI. This little task is something I would not have paid anyone else to do and probably wouldn’t have gotten around to doing myself. It would have gone undone before this powerful AI was released, so perhaps AI has the potential to release new creativity.

This is awful, because it may herald the end of a lot of programming jobs. These seem like scary times for anyone who makes a living as a programmer. Similar to the unknown impact of DALL•E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion on artists this is a time of rapid change and we don’t really know where it is going. Recently, many major tech companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) have announced layoffs and although they claim it is the economy, each one mentioned AI in their announcements.

It is not like this type of code isn’t out there already and clever programmers weren’t already Googling for code snippets and ready-to-use functions. Perhaps if I knew Javascript well myself, I could have written the little code snippet in the same amount of time. What is amazing to me about this AI is the adaptation of the code to fit a specific purpose. It made it so that I, a mildly tech-savvy person can simply type in a request and get back something I could use immediately.

P.S. Oh, oh! As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve often written about FileMaker Pro development. I just tried this AI with some FileMaker scripts. This might be a serious problem.

3 Responses to “AI-Written Javascript Paywall Jumper”

  1. Tried it but it was very slow. But in the NY-Times just use the reader to read the text (worked faster). If it works with all the pages? I do not know.

    • That’s so funny! Simply switching to Reader mode in Safari displays the whole article! Great tip. Thanks Louis. I’ve noted elsewhere that paywalls can be avoided temporarily by turning off JavaScript in the browser settings. Which brings up the question, what, or who are these paywalls for anyway?

    • Update: I tested the Reader view tip with The Globe and Mail, but it didn’t work on that website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: