A paywall is similar to a firewall in that it prevents users from accessing certain web page content, most commonly news sites and scholarly publications. To access certain (sometimes all) areas of these sites, users have to pay a subscription fee. There are both hard and soft paywalls, with the latter being less restrictive on the content viewable without a subscription.
Newspaper and magazine sites have begun implementing paywalls, due to a decline in printed material subscriptions. The first paywall was implemented in 1997 by the Wall Street Journal. By 2007, the WSJ had over one million users. The use of paywalls remains a debated topic, some view them as a necessity in the current technology and online age and others maintain information on the Internet should remain free.