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Tell HN: Add ?share=1 to Quora URLs to display content without login
341 points by pearjuice on Aug 30, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments

Websites are growing in their nuisance of DOM-level UI breaking. I'm increasingly using the Inspector dev tool just to delete entire chunks of elements on websites.

"Oh, you need me to click LIKE on your page? ... Deleted!"

"Oh, your news article is 25% of the width of the page and the other 75% is navigation, ads, and other unrelated articles? Deleted!"

"Oh, you have the annoying chat box that hovers in the bottom corner and hides things I actually wanted to see? Baleted!"

I keep telling myself that eventually I'll add a deletion option to the right-click context menu but I never actually bother with it.

I wrote a bookmarklet to delete stuff like this without opening the inspector:

  javascript:(function(){document.styleSheets[0].addRule(".highlighted_to_remove","background:red !important");var e=function(e){if(e.keyCode==27){i()}};document.addEventListener("keydown",e);var t=function(e){e.stopPropagation();this.classList.add("highlighted_to_remove");return false};var n=function(e){e.stopPropagation();this.classList.remove("highlighted_to_remove");return false};var r=function(e){this.parentNode.removeChild(this);i();e.preventDefault();e.stopPropagation();return false};var i=function(){var i=0;var s=document;while(s=document.body.getElementsByTagName("*").item(i++)){s.removeEventListener("mouseover",t);s.removeEventListener("mouseout",n);s.removeEventListener("click",r);s.classList.remove("highlighted_to_remove")}document.removeEventListener("keydown",e)};var s=0;var o=document;while(o=document.body.getElementsByTagName("*").item(s++)){o.addEventListener("mouseover",t);o.addEventListener("mouseout",n);o.addEventListener("click",r)}})()
Post about it: https://plus.google.com/114437281866675781856/posts/hkp9F9Wr...

Nice. I think your bookmarklet stretched the hacker news comments page.


Works like a charm in Chrome. Not so in Firefox. I'm on a Mac.

So did I!

    javascript:var cursor = document.body.style.cursor; document.body.style.cursor = "crosshair"; var killer = function (event) { document.body.style.cursor = cursor; if (event.target.parentNode) event.target.parentNode.removeChild(event.target); window.removeEventListener('click', killer, false); event.stopPropagation(); event.preventDefault(); }; window.addEventListener('click', killer, false);void(0)

Improved version:

    javascript:(function(){var e=document.body.style.cursor;document.body.style.cursor="crosshair";var t=document.createElement("div");var n="border:1px solid #3280FF;background-color:rgba(50,128,255,0.5);position:absolute;z-index:999999999999999;display:none;";var r="pointer-events:none;";var i="transition:width 60ms,height 60ms,left 60ms,top 60ms;";n+=r+"-webkit-"+r+"-moz-"+r;n+=i+"-webkit-"+i+"-moz-"+i;t.setAttribute("style",n);document.body.appendChild(t);var s=null;var o=function(e){var n=e.target;if(n!==s&&n.parentNode){var r=n.getBoundingClientRect();var i=document.documentElement;var o=document.body;var u=i.clientTop||o.clientTop||0;var a=i.clientLeft||o.clientLeft||0;var f=window.pageYOffset||i.scrollTop||o.scrollTop;var l=window.pageXOffset||i.scrollLeft||o.scrollLeft;var c=l-a+r.left-1;var h=f-u+r.top-1;t.style.display="block";t.style.left=c+"px";t.style.top=h+"px";t.style.width=r.width+"px";t.style.height=r.height+"px";s=n}};var u=function(n){document.body.style.cursor=e;if(n.target.parentNode)n.target.parentNode.removeChild(n.target);if(t.parentNode)t.parentNode.removeChild(t);window.removeEventListener("click",u,false);window.removeEventListener("mouseover",o,false);n.stopPropagation();n.preventDefault()};window.addEventListener("mouseover",o,false);window.addEventListener("click",u,false)})();void(0)
"Source": http://jsfiddle.net/udzP3/

Thank you for this! It looks pretty awesome.

Readability is your friend! http://www.readability.com/apps

I've never been able to get Readability-the-app to work on most sites. It seems far less useful than the original bookmarklet. I also don't want to send things to my "Reading List" or my imaginary Kindle.

For fans of the original bookmarklet: [http://readable.tastefulwords.com/]

Remove It Permanently


Based on Aardvark; fixes the web.

Eventually, this will become a crime and we, programmers, will support it. Because, legislating our way to money is easier. Locking down is easier.

AdBlock's pretty good at handling this stuff too.

You might enjoy this "position:fixed fixer" bookmarklet I wrote, it just sets all elements with position:fixed to position:static. In 99% of the cases this does exactly what is needed to improve the page, without even having to manually click or select the elements.

    javascript:for(var a=document.querySelectorAll('*'),i=0,e; e=a[i]; i++) if (e.currentStyle.position == 'fixed') e.style.position = 'static'; void(0)
I have it named "fix", so I can just type "fix" in the address bar and it applies to the current page. It's lovely, all those floating fixed elements just disappear (possibly somewhere to the bottom of the page) and you get your screen estate back.

edit: I just see a bunch of others also made bookmarklets to remove elements, so I added a bit more description as to why mine is different. Setting all position:fixed elements to position:static really does seem to do exactly what you want in one fell swoop, in 99% of the cases.

There should be an adblocker list for popups, survey requests, etc

Just disable Javascript by default, it will protect your sanity.

But also nearly cripple a site's functionality aside from static content pages.

"But also nearly cripple a site's functionality aside from static content pages.

Even plain text pages aren't immune from the Javascript curse. I've said this before, but Google's blogger/blogspot service is one of the worst offenders. For example, here is the official Android blog from Google


With Javascript disabled, nothing loads at all. When Javascript is enabled, you get a mostly text page that could easily be served without Javascript.

As you can easily re-enable it with any decent browser (Opera 12 is great) that is no issue since if you actually want to have a site to have interactive features on its pages, just enable it. Otherwise, you get soothing, plain, static content. Most sites to not require Javascript for reading text or looking at images.

It is pretty refreshing to load a page and have it usable within fractions of a second, instead of it having to go and fetch an untold number of external scripts, initialize and create the widgets and objects, etc. Not to mention that sites with auto-play A/V are prevented from blaring at you without your permission.

"Easy" is in the eye of the beholder. "Close tab" is even easier to do; and very little of Internet's content is actually unique (as in "cannot be obtained from a non-scummy site").

That's why we have add-ons like NoScript for Firefox (or the similar NotScripts for Chrome) that let you selectively white-list JavaScript from just the sites you need. Even if some site requires JavaScript to load, it almost surely doesn't require JavaScript hosted from Facebook or Twitter or Google Analytics to be functional.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the list were hosted by a company who's revenue largely comes from ads. Like most internet companies today.

Maybe some kind of balance would be better than a block list. Effective ads that don't annoy.

Ads can't be effective, if you'd made a product that was better than what I use, and specifically targeted at me, via magic(?), I'd already know about it because I would have read a review. Ads are just lies. But the question was about popups asking you to sign up, do a survey, etc. I already block ads.

I think websites in general are getting away with bloat overall. Ever since I started using noscript I've gotten increasingly annoyed by how every site seems to wanna run scripts from at least 3-4 sources that I know aren't essential to my experience on the actual site. Some sites have upwards of 15 sources and I have to wade through them to allow the content servers, etc..

There must be a market for a chrome plugin that lets one ctrl+click to delete a DOM element, I wonder how hard that would be?

I built this extension a while ago for precisely that reason. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hide-elements/omjo...

I thought Nuke Anything Enhanced was meant to do exactly that?



Might as well just use a Readability-type plugin to pull out the text.

Extensions like Readability and Clearly let you read just the main content on the page. It would be nice if they had an option to automatically load pages like in that mode. Besides avoiding all the clutter websites put, the pages would also load faster that way.

Update: There is an extension like this, called permanent readability: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/permanent-readabil...

(though I think it strips out the junk after the whole page loads.)

I'm pretty sure readability routes web pages through their service to strip them down to the main content, and restyle them. Since this processing isn't done on your machine, it would probably be slower than loading the original page. Also, a company would never invite the amount of traffic such a feature would incur.

OK so it would make more sense to use an alternative that does it in the browser, e.g. http://www.notforest.com/.

Or better yet, install personal blocklist and never see Quora results in your search results again:


Google having this as a feature for a while was great, annoying that they removed that....

Well, the aforementioned extension is by Google, they just took the functionality out of Google Search and put it into an extension because it was easier to maintain for the number of users that used it.

And they "forgot" about Firefox users, it seems. I still hate Google for that move.

Interestingly, they used to just blur their text with effect, and the actual text was available in the source. I am not certain what prompted the change, but they now screenshot the text, blur it, and put the screenshot (!) in the page, preventing view source snooping.

Since that started, I stopped reading Quora entirely and I always avoid their links. Occasionally there is some great content I can't find elsewhere, and I won't sign up to a service that is so abusive. This is a great trick. Thanks.

Yes, Quora are really quite obnoxious and spammy in many ways.

It's a shame they went down this route after a promising start. They could have taken the StackOverflow route but chose to be Expert-Sex-Change instead.

In case some people are not aware, Benjamin refers to the closed and paid Experts Exchange community, whose domain name is particularly easy to misread.

... and so, eventually, they moved to http://experts-exchange.com/.

I'm still trying to figure out what a s-ex change is.

Probably something about s-expressions [1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-expression

That's what you need the expert for

Eventually, like a decade ago...

I also did that plus deleted my account and all my answers, many of which were quite popular. It started so well too.

Isn't that forbidden by Google?

Only if they're serving up a different page to Google so that it can index that text. If Googlebot gets the same HTML someone clicking on the search result would get, your site can be as user-unfriendly as you want.

They used do exactly that: I started reporting them as webspam after a few iterations of seeing text snippets which were blocked by the nags when I opened the page. At one point the blocker was pure-JavaScript so you could simply disable it but that doesn't provide the negative feedback which abusive practices deserve.

That was when I cancelled my account: they're doing this because someone decided it would be profitable. I don't want to subsidize an unethical business with my content or help them by viewing ads or sharing their pages. This has yet to be a problem in any way: the amount of “must-read” Quora content has remained zero.

And to cancel the account you've to email them i.e, there's no UI to do that. Despicable.

On the plus side, if enough people cancel it costs them a non-trivial amount of money to process requests.

Obscuring content to non-bot users is still cloaking, I believe. Google's goal is to mimic a human user clicking through links and if the experience the bot gets is markedly different than others, that's a problem.

That's the point GP made. It is not markedly different, and it is not different at all. The content is just simply useless.

From Googlebot's perspective, it is not cloaking at all.

Not according to Matt Cutts : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHtnfOgp65Q

"Cloaking is essentially serving different content to users than Googlebot".

I'm a user who cannot view Quora content that Googlebot has indexed even though it was a result Google said matched my query. This result is therefore unusable without modifying the URL or signing in. That is the definition of different content, HTML/CSS/JS or other semantics be damned, and a poor user experience. And that's something Google is allegedly trying to avoid.

The Matt Cutts video also talks about mobile user experiences. If I worked for Quora, I'd pay close attention as I cannot view the site at all without getting their mobile app even though, again, Google said "you should check out this Quora link for this query".

Edit: From the webmaster guidelines...


  •Using white text on a white background
  •Locating text behind an image
  •Using CSS to position text off-screen
  •Setting the font size to 0
  •Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, 
  a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph
  When evaluating your site to see if it includes hidden text or links, 
  look for anything that's not easily viewable by visitors of your site. 
  Are any text or links there solely for search engines rather than 

From that enumeration none seems to apply. There is an image with blurred text, but no bad SEO practice to game a search engine bot.

You're right about the pages still appearing with high ranks on specific queries, but on the other hand I attribute it more to Google bombing than page relevance. At least I'm pretty sure Googlebot finds nothing to read on Quora, so the effect must be due to incoming links.


The content may keep coming up because the individual user pages do show the non-obscured content linking back to the parent question.

Observe, please...

I made this search :


And got a topic with answers obscured.


I then selected a portion of the obscured text and made this query :

https://www.google.com/search?q=python+vs+php+"Here are just a few reasons based on my"

Came up with the original obscured answer on that very same question :


Check out that page's source. You'll note the canonical URL is the original question.

  <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.quora.com/Python-programming-language-1/Which-is-better-PHP-or-Python-Why" />
Since Googlebot will dutifully obey canonical, we now have link-bait to the original question with obscured content instead of the non-obscured answers. Again, this is gaming the system. You may disagree, and Quora may as well, regardless that's what's happening.

Edit: Link to webmaster guidelines on rel="canonical" :


   Adding this link and attribute lets site owners identify sets of identical 
  content and suggest to Google: "Of all these pages with identical content, 
  this page is the most useful. Please prioritize it in search results."
Quora is gaming the system. Period. I won't pursue this point any further.

It's probably possible to recover the text from the blurred image (depending on the amount of blurring), some people would consider it a challenge

> ... they now screenshot the text, blur it ...

I think the blurred text is generic.

I've just tested and I don't see any image, the html is right there and just clicking will make the lightbox go away. I never see it anyway cause I'm signed in but I tried in incognito mode and it was fine. Not sure why there's so much misinformation and hate on HN when it comes to quora.

It is not misinformation. Here is a screenshot of a quora page with source: http://i.imgur.com/x8Ic69y.jpg

Thanks, could you give me the URL of that page please?

I just tried this url in incognito mode. When I click anywhere outside of the light box, it goes away and I get the full text version. Am I being served some special html for my IP? Doubt it.

Edit: just tried with a proxy IP and it worked too. Did you guys actually try to click outside of the light box?

The first answer is text, the rest are images as you can see in the screenshot.

Yes, I clicked outside of the light box.

I used a screen capture service online to see what the site looks like to a third party: http://i.imgur.com/UedyYQW.png

Since it's an automated service, it doesn't click away the lightbox, but if you scroll down you will see the text in the background are all blurred images.

The reason you don't see an image is because you're signed in or you happen to be viewing an unblurred answer...

As someone who has never used this site I can assure you that answers are a blurred PNG with the title "Sign up to view the contents of this answer."[1]

It's not misinformation if it's correct.


I clicked on this link and clicking outside of the lightbox anywhere on this page makes the blurred image disappear. Tried on both firefox and chrome in incognito mode so signed off. Did you try to click anywhere on the page?

This is awesome; thanks for sharing.

I still feel that Quora should promptly go die in a fire, Google should de-rank them, Stack Overflow should supersede them, and users should abandon them for the good of the internet, but what do I know.

Having written enough on both to know them reasonably well (4 gold medals on SO, Top Writer on Quora), I like Quora much better as a platform. The community design is much better on Quora, I think the UI is more appealing, and I don't have to worry about insane moderators nuking valuable content because it doesn't fit their personal agendas for the site.

My only real objection to Quora is that they make it so hard to share content. I think the walled garden thing is just wrong; I (and many other Top Writers) haven't been shy about telling them that, either. I hope they will eventually come around.

Same here (Top Writer too).

SO doesn't allow talky SV navel gazing opinion threads though.

Why the hatred? Quora isn't that bad. They fixed what google/yahoo answers couldn't

The tactics they are using basically mean they are dead. It's expertssexchange all over again.

Typo there.

The original domain had potential to be misread too though! :-)

It's not funny unless it's a malapropism.

Agreed. There is some great content there, but its just such a shame it is hidden by a wall of frustration. SO/SE seems to have it pretty much nailed, but I guess Quora wanted to monetize quickly... to the detriment of its users.

"Isn't that bad" and "Yahoo Answers" in the same sentence probably explains why.

It's like saying dollar-store dog food isn't that bad...compared to malaria.

This analogy almost made me snort coffee out my nose.. well done sir.

And yet I still read Yahoo Answers, and I never read Quora.

Same with vBulletin™ boards.



and suddenly you can read all the content (except for attachments) without login.

Nice! Thanks for the tipoff.

Another good one is simply to load the google cache. Often these sites want to turn up in search results, so they allow the googlebot to see the content, and then show the user a paywall. Obviously this means the full content ends up in the cache. This works for the Financial Times, and probably many other such places.

I wonder why Google doesn't do anything about it. It seems these big companies/brands get to get away with anything.

Google claim to detect when people do that, but I guess it's not foolproof.

It's why experts-exchange has all the content all the way at the bottom now if you scroll half a mile down. They used to show users and google different results until Google cracked down.

It's really scummy that I land on these pages to be presented with a login box and need to do this trick to see the contents.

Tried it on:


And got redirected to the homepage instead.

Looks like they totally closed the forum. There aren't any posts indexed by Google.

So, essentially, Quora is now expertsexchange, with page cloaking and whatnot? Good to know. (I hope they won't remove this method now that it's publicized...)

It has been for over a year now.


Edit: Link fixed :)

Of course I tried clicking on Android and it refuses to show stuff without me installing the app. Ban them Google!

The more people who report webspam, the more likely that is to happen…

They actually officially communicated about this method:

  Open any Quora URL. If you come across a Quora link
  anywhere and you want to read it without being asked to
  join Quora, you can add the text "?share=1" to the end
  of the URL.

It's really not. Once you sign up, there are no pop-ups, nor are there advertisements of any kind.

Nope. Even if this promise were to hold true, I have no intention of supporting such scammy tactics as content cloaking (which I would by implicitly supporting the company which engages in them, thus validating it).

The problem everyone had with expertsexchange was most definitely not ads and popups.

expert sex change

Rather than that I have trained myself to never click on Quora links. I never understood why they became popular in the first place but then they went and thought forcing people to register to view pages is somehow needed for success on a Q&A site.

They became popular because of Founder Fame by Association.

They started requiring registration because they belong to The Cult Of Registered User Metrics and they forgot the internet is 98% read and 2% contribute.

Yeah, I never click anymore. I have a login, I could probably ask them for it, but I'd have to log in every time because I never stay logged in to anything but HN, so meh.

Jesus H. the lengths people go through not to register a throwaway astounds me.

"How to get into a library without having to fill out a registration form" where the library doesn't care what you write in it, including Dicky McDick.

Honestly. Just register under some kind of pseudo. The sense of entitlement here... why do you think people write great answers there?

You're taking for granted the resource - which wouldn't exist if Quora didn't create and encourage a platform - and want to not give back to an uttely inane extent: even the idea of registering a pseudonym is abhorrent to you.

> why do you think people write great answers there?

Well, I certainly don't think it has anything to do with the fact that they require registration. People write great content on 4chan.

> Jesus H. the lengths people go through not to register a throwaway astounds me.

Have you ever actually been to Quora? The registration modal doesn't even give you the offer to register with a pseudonym that you so casually throw out. You get smacked in the face when you go to the site with a demand to link to your (real-name required) Google or Facebook accounts before you can so much as read 'their' precious content. To sign up with just an email address (that you then have to verify, which automatically opts you in to literally over 30 different 'newsletters' and notifications and other bits of spam that you have to manually opt out of individually). It certainly isn't just "type something into this form to shut up" as you suggest.

Dunno, I used some Mailinator-type email, signed up with some Quora-mocking name, and it seems to work. I still think it's annoying, and I'm not sure how Quora's a "business", but whatever.

You're honestly asking why someone would rather take the quick and much more anonymous way out instead of registering? It makes perfect sense to me.

Exactly. Quora doesn't even need a valid email for registering.

This fact was reported on the official Quora blog back in February (http://blog.quora.com/Making-Sharing-Better).

> If you come across a Quora link anywhere and you want to read it without being asked to join Quora, you can add the text "?share=1" to the end of the URL.

Trafficking their site is supporting their site and practices.

The hostility to Quora seems a little excessive. Is it so bad to just sign up, then be able to use it from then on? I don't see why someone would actually be offended by this kind of thing.

You are attacking a straw man argument. The problem lies not with registration, but with purposeful degradation of content a la expertsexchange, for the purpose of _forcing_ registration just for viewing. I'm _not_ interested in registering into every walled garden out there on the Internet, just for the purpose of reading a result of a web search.

(All right all right, you can do the "but it's technically not content cloaking" quora astroturf dance now; but you know the saying: if it walks like duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck...)

I see that a lot of people aren't happy with Quora, why is that? I've only asked one or two questions on there but the answers I've received have been alright.

They abuse rel=canonical to increase their search engine rank but slam a registration wall in your face when you try to go read the content on their site.


- They blur their answers for non-registered users. They're wasting my time when I think I find what I'm looking for only to find a blurred image. Just tell Google you don't want to be indexed if you don't want to share the content.

- You can't use their website without using your real name. They're really persistent in this. A pseudonym won't do, they'll ask you to identify yourself with a scan of your ID before they let you participate. It's ridiculous.

That's not true. You can register an account with a fake name and you won't be required to provide any ID.

That's not my experience.

I just moments ago successfully registered for Quora using my fake Facebook account (which has a realistic sounding name.)

They are blurring the answers. If you search for something and end up on quora, it can get a bit frustrating , due to the fact, that you can't read the answers and are forced to sign up. That's just rude.

I couldn't before but now i can see all the answers without ?share=1. Did they change their policy? I can't find any blurred answer anymore.

If you have been on any answer with ?share=1 they're setting a cookie and you get no blurred answers until you remove the cookie or it expires.

or better yet just don't share links from Quora, let them die their shameless death, and instead post answers to things that want to be and remain open like Stack Overflow or your own blog.

I'd like a Firefox add-on that can rewrite URLs that "fix" sites. This Quora fix is one. Another is "&pagewanted=1" on nytimes.com to force single-page article view.

I wrote a Chrome [1] extension and UserScript [2] which does this automagically:

[1]: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker [2]: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker-userscript

Alternatively, I could just not read Quora.

This is handy and all but have the last 12 months not taught us all that this sort of unauthorised access to systems can land you a period of state funded accommodation?

It is authorized. They have published this and encourage people to use it. The main goal was, from what I could tell, to get popular writers to stop bitching about their interface all the time.

They're too big to fail, they have some very nice friends at Google or they're some kind of big shot AdWords client.

Google should come out and do their thing banning them.

funny, I'm browsing with latest opera with some plugins (notably addblock plus and disconnect) and I can read everything without logging in and without adding the ?share=1

still not using that site though.

edit : my mistake. it seems that once you've used a ?share=1 link, that changes some cookies so after that you seem to always see everything

How did you figure this out?

Great hack but unless absolutely necessary I'll just keep searching to find the answer on other sites. Let them keep their info

Most likely, they have to meet VC benchmarks on the number of registered users. Sad what that site has become.

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