Google Closing “First Click Free” Paywall Circumvention
Google is closing a means of readers skipping through paywalls, called “First Click Free.” This was a means of news websites getting higher results in search results because some stories available free to browsers. The technique works by allowing users to directly access an article from a Google Search without needing to sign in through the paywall. Subsequent clicks trigger the paywall. The First Click Free is something of a double edged sword. It meant that news websites were able to easily promote their journalism via Google (as let’s face it, very few Internet surfing stories start off with, “so I was searching Bing when…”). Against this, the technology was open to abuse: one of the websites I contributed to for a couple of years encouraged authors to use the First Click Free technique when sourcing articles. Regardless, First Click Free allows premium written articles to be found in search results and be read more.
Google is now shutting down this policy. It will mean that those websites locked behind a paywall will remain so even from a Google Search, which arguably makes the free Internet more accessible. Against this, one argument is that not all of the Internet should be paid-for, as journalists need to be paid too. As this could hurt those paywall-protected websites, Google has announced plans to provide new tools to help these sites attract subscribers. All articles will also be indexed, making them readily accessible from the Google Search. We’ll have to wait and see how Google’s means of attracting subscribers works and how this is also evolved over the years, but the news is expected to please publishers. One thing is for sure: the Google Search technology is a cornerstone of how many people access and use of the Internet, and it will be interesting to see how a change like this impacts the media.
SOURCE [The Next Web]