If you bump into a block of blurred text while browsing, there’s no need to turn your back in disappointment or impulsively pay for a subscription. You can unblur the text with one of the methods below and take the time to assess whether you really want to sign up for the content.
Why Do Websites Blur Content?
Websites blurring text is a common practice to keep their content exclusive to members and paying subscribers. Not all websites that do this require you to pay for a subscription to read the content they blur. Some just want you to drop your email address or sign up for a free membership or a free trial. Others also allow you to browse a limited amount of content before the paywall comes up.
How to Unblur Text on a Website
If you need a bit more time or a little more sample content to make up your mind before you commit to a sign-up or paid subscription, it’s handy if you know how to preview hidden text.
Keep in mind that the methods below aren’t guaranteed to work on all websites. Also, they should be used only to evaluate if a membership or subscription is necessary. We do not condone bypassing any paywall that supports journalism. If you don’t want to use your email address to create an account, we recommend using a disposable email address or a service like BugMeNot.
1. Use Google Translate as a Proxy to View Hidden Text
- Open the web page with the text you want to unblur.
- Copy the page URL.
- Go to Google Translate and paste the URL in the left-hand box.
- Click on the URL that appears in the right-hand box. (If you’d prefer to read the content in a language other than English, pick a language from the choices listed above this box and then click on the refreshed URL.)
You should be directed to a new tab containing an unblurred version of the web page.
2. View a Snapshot on Internet Archive
Internet Archive‘s WayBack Machine is a free-for-all tool where anyone can save and look up versions of web pages. The tool also crawls the web and archives cached pages. Use it to look up saved versions of a paywalled article if any are available.
- Copy the URL of the page with the blurred content you want to view.
- Go to Internet Archive and paste the URL into the WayBack Machine search bar to check if the page was archived.
- Select the page version you want to view. For the latest content, pick the latest archived version based on date and time. Available archived versions are marked by blue circles on the calendar.
You should be directed to the archived version you selected, where you can see the blurred content.
3. Open the Page From Google Search
Some websites offering premium content to subscribers allow non-paying visitors to view the full content of the link they clicked on from Google Search results to boost their traffic. However, if you use this method, you’re only allowed to view the content of the page URL you clicked, and when you go deeper into the website, you’ll meet a paywall. Here’s how bypass this restriction:
- Copy the title of the page containing the blurred text you want to view and paste it into Google Search. (Hover over the page’s tab and you’ll see the page title.) If you can’t highlight and copy the page title, type it manually.
For more accurate search results, type the website name at the end or beginning of your query.
- Click on the result with the same page URL as the page you want to unblur.
The entire page should now be available for viewing.
4. View Blurred Content With Inspect Element
The Inspect or Inspect Element tool is available in all desktop web browsers. Just right-click on the page you want to inspect, and you should see either “Inspect” or “Inspect Element” in the right-click menu.
- On the page you want to unblur, right-click anywhere and select “Inspect” or “Inspect Element.” The Inspect section should pop out on the right or at the bottom of your browser window.
- Select the line of code that pertains to the hidden content. Ensure that you select the parent element i.e. the one encompassing all the little elements that make up the blocker. On the page we have chosen, we’re looking for a line that starts with “
- Once you find the correct line, right-click on it and click on “Delete element” in the context menu. This deletes the blocker element on the page.
- The next line of code you need to modify starts with “” In that line, locate the style=”overflow: hidden;” code.
- Right-click on this snippet and select “Edit attribute.” Change the attribute value from “hidden” to “visible” and hit the Enter key.
This action works on the blurred content behind the blocker and makes it viewable.
A Few Things to Note
In some browsers, the Inspect tool may not be visible if you haven’t enabled the use of developer tools first. Look for a “Develop” menu or similar to check if these tools are active.
Also, the names for the blocker and blurred content elements on the page differ from website to website. The style attribute may not always show up as “overflow.” It may appear as “visibility: hidden,” “filter:blur,” or something else. You’ll need a bit of trial and error to locate the relevant bits of code you need to modify or delete. If you mess up, refresh the page to start over.
5. Switch to Reader Mode
Most modern browses offer a “reader” mode that removes web page clutter like ads and other distractions. It’s called Reader Mode in Chrome and Reader View in Firefox and Safari. This mode allows you to view blurred or paywalled content on some websites. It’s an optional feature in certain browsers, so you’ll need to enable it before you can use it to unblur text.
To enable Reader Mode on Google Chrome:
- Open a new tab and type chrome://flags in the address bar.
- In the “Experiments” section, look for “Enable Reader Mode” and change its state to “Enabled” from the drop-down menu on its right. Relaunch Google Chrome to apply changes.
After the relaunch, you should see the Reader Mode icon in the address bar.
Now, go to the web page with the blurred content you want to see and click on the Reader Mode icon. It should switch to an unblurred and distraction-free version of the page.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it legal to unblur a website?
It’s not illegal to unblur a website if you’re using the methods above and you don’t intend to copy, distribute, or use the blurred content for commercial purposes. The potential for legal action also depends on the country you’re in. You could be fined for circumventing a paywall or receive a DMCA violation notice. Your IP address could also be blacklisted.
2. Is it ethical to unblur text on a website?
It’s not ethical to unblur text that you can only access under certain conditions such as signing up for a membership or paying for a subscription.
3. Can I reverse unblurred text?
Sort of. When using Google Translate, Internet Archive, and Google Search to unblur text, there’s no need to revert the unblurred content. Just close the page in question. For the Inspect tool, reverse unblurred text by refreshing the page. In Reader Mode, click on the Reader Mode icon to hide the paywalled content again.
Image credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr
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Natalie dela Vega
Natalie is a writer specializing in tech how-tos and gaming. When she’s not writing, she plays PC games and travels. Here at MakeTechEasier, you will see her write about guides, tips, and solutions for Windows and iOS.