"paywall", "pay(-) wall" (2004?)

Chris Waigl cwaigl at FREE.FR
Fri Nov 4 08:45:24 UTC 2005

I'm seeing the word "paywall" used more and more often on the sites I
read. The word isn't mentioned in the ADS-L archives, that I can see. It
denotes an access control mechanism that enables web site owners (news
outlets for example) to make particular pieces of content accessible to
paying subscribers only. Typical usage: "The article is behind a
paywall" or "the New York Times paywall".

For-pay-only content isn't new, of course, but the word might be.

The earliest occurrence on Usenet according to Google Groups is
interestingly in the HTML source of a web page from Mother Jones
magazine, first in a comment and then in a class attribute, which are
part of the markup that implements precisely this function of the web
site. This shows that web designers working for such companies call it
"paywall", too:

<!-- Paywall Box Start -->
function test_cookies()
  document.cookie = "PaywallTest=True";
  var allcookies = document.cookie;
  if (allcookies.indexOf("PaywallTest=True") == -1) {
    document.location =
    return false;
  return true ;
<div class="paywall-box">
<!--end BRIDGE table-->
<!-- Paywall Box end -->

There is no earlier cite for the two-word version on Google Groups.
Google Print yields nothing.

But May 2005 isn't particularly early. Via Technorati (228 hits), the
following early blog posts:

Over at Macfixit, there's a good article (for Mac aficionados) about The
"Opener" scare and keeping malicious scripts off your Mac. Though as the
content goes behind a paywall after a day, I thought I'd flag it here.
26 October 2004 <http://www.charlesarthur.com/blog/index.php?p=189>
Frank Rich of the New York Times reflects on the deeper meaning of this
in an outstanding essay today. (Hurry before it scurries behind the
November 18, 2004
The OSCE must be doing something right, given the loud yelps of dismay
from Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov in the FT today (warning:
hidden behind paywall).
November 29th, 2004

And in two words, hyphenated or not (337 Technorati hits, many irrelevant):

If, on the other hand, a site copied our content with no attribution and
put its own advertising around it, or put it behind some sort of pay
wall, I would see a reason to get upset.
October 19, 2004 <http://www.holovaty.com/blog/archive/2004/10/19/1224>
The KNX 1070 reporter and political editor retires today. LARadio.com
collects the tributes behind the pay wall.
October 21, 2004 <http://www.laobserved.com/archive/002615.html>
As News.com's Jeff Pelline wrote, Dow Jones is half-a-billion dollar
investment is a dramatic attempt to both catch-up and not lose ground (a
less expensive strategy was seen last week when WSJ.com lifted its
November 16, 2004

Chris Waigl

blog:      http://serendipity.lascribe.net/
eggcorns:  http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/

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