December 9, 2005

behind a paywall

Posted in Idioms at 9:56 am by Feng

English language itself keeps changing with time. I read this “behind a paywall” phrase from Schneier’s blog. However, the word “paywall” cannot be found in any dictionaries. It is actually a made-up word, explained by an American guy in the lab, but now comonly used as an internet-age jargon, much like the word “blog”. The phrase means “You need to pay to get through the wall” — for example, the on-line New York Times is subscription-based, so its news articles are behind a paywall (note the comments by Saar/Tyler). If you want to get through the paywall for free, try bugmenot (a tip from Saar).



  1. Saar Drimer said,

    Actually, NYT requires free registration, so it wouldn’t be a proper paywall. Maybe more like an “annoywall”, “sillywall”, “sellusyoursoulwall”, “wewillsellyourinfoforprofitwall” or some such.

  2. Feng said,

    add one: “hassle-wall”? The meaning of “pay” here may be general; it does not necessarily mean moneywise. So it seems OK to use — some examples are found on internet — “paywall” for the NYT.

  3. Tyler Moore said,

    I think the ‘pay’ in paywall here is pretty specific — it refers to sites that require payment to pass through. NYT requires registration for access to most articles, but it has recently (and controversially) introduced a proper paywall called TimesSelect that limits access to Op-Ed columns.

  4. Feng said,

    Thanks for the clarification. I misunderstood this phrase then.

  5. vdovault said,

    This is a new expression to me too, but I think it comes from the idea of a ‘firewall’, meaning what you want to access is secured (in this case by the requirement that you pay to gain access, but in the case of where you have to register and give a site personal information, you potentially ‘pay’ for your access with disclosing things you might not want to disclose). The ‘wall’ part of that made up expression implies an act of securing something. So you could have firewalls, registerwalls (I just made that one up!) and paywalls out there on websites.

    By the way, if you hear of someone ‘walling off’ something than that implies that the person is securing something.

  6. Feng said,

    I didn’t find “walling off” in the dictionaries, although I found its use in google. A new phrase?

  7. vdovault said,

    ‘Walling off’ is not all that new (maybe 10 years old or so).

  8. Guest said,

    Very interesting article

  9. Jackie said,

    Thanks for your great post i am doing a study on this and you really helped me out here



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