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December 27, 2008

Wikipedia: BBC Online

Filed under: — admin @ 11:52 am
Commercial? No
Type of site Portal
Registration 1991
Owner BBC
Created by BBC
Current status Active

BBC Online (formerly is the brand name and home for the BBC’s UK online service. It is a large network of websites including such high profile sites as BBC News and Sport, the on demand video and radio services co-branded BBC iPlayer, the pre-school site Cbeebies, and learning services such as Bitesize. The BBC has had an online presence supporting its TV and radio programmes and web only initiatives since 1994 but didn’t launch officially until December 1997, following government approval to fund it by TV licence fee revenue as a service in its own right. Throughout its short history, the online plans of the BBC have been subject to various public consultations and government reviews illustrating concerns from commercial rivals that its large presence and public funding distorts the UK market.

The website has gone through several branding changes since it was launched. Originally named BBC Online, it was then rebranded as BBCi (which itself was the brand name for interactive TV services) before being named It was then branded BBC Online again in 2008.[1] The Web-based service of the BBC is one of the world’s largest and most visited websites (forty-sixth most visited according to Alexa on 30 September 2008) [2]. As of 2007, it contained over two million pages.



BBC Networking Club

The BBC Networking club, 1994

The service’s original home was (the “nc” standing for “networking club”) launched on 11 May 1994 as a paid subscription service. For a joining fee of £25 and a monthly subscription of £12, members of the club were given access to an early type of social networking site featuring a bulletin board for sharing information and real-time conversation, along with a dialup internet connection service.[3]

Within 12 months, the BBC offered “auntie” on-line discussion groups; web pages for select web-related programs and BBC departments; free web pages for associate members; and an internet connection service [4] was introduced in 1996 though the old address also remained active for some time afterwards.

BBC Online

BBC website as it appeared in 1997

The BBC Director General John Birt sought government approval to direct licence fee revenue into the service, describing planned BBC internet services as the “third medium” joining the BBC’s existing TV and Radio networks, achieving a change in the BBC Charter. This led to the official launch of BBC Online at the address in December 1997.

For a time, was used for the organisation’s corporate and educational site, while entertainment-based content appeared on The two sites were merged c.1998 to become BBC Online [5] at In 1999, the BBC bought the domain name for $375,000, previously owned by Boston Business Computing [6], but the price of this purchase was not revealed until 6 years later.[7] As of 2005, no longer exists. The address now redirects to the BBC Shop website run by BBC Worldwide, at


BBCi website navbar, 2004

In 2001 BBC Online was rebranded as BBCi. The BBCi name was conceived as an umbrella brand for all the BBC’s digital interactive services across web, digital teletext, interactive TV and on mobile plaftorms.[8][9] The use of letter “i” prefixes and suffixes to denote information technology or interactivity was very much in vogue at this time, notably with the launch of the iMac and the iPod by Apple Computer; according to the BBC, the “i” in BBCi stood for “interactivity” as well as “innovation”.[10]

As part of the rebrand, BBC website pages all displayed a standard navigation bar across the top of the screen, offering a category-based navigation: Categories, TV, Radio, Communicate, Where I Live, A-Z Index and a search.[11] The navbar was designed to offer a similar navigation system to the i-bar on BBCi interactive television.

After three years of consistent use across different platforms, the BBC began to drop the BBCi brand gradually; on 6 May 2004, the BBC website was renamed, after the main URL used to access the site. [12] Interactive TV services continued under the BBCi brand until it was dropped completely in 2008. The BBC’s online video player, the iPlayer has, however, retained an i-prefix in its branding.

On 14 December 2007, a beta version of a new homepage was launched, with the ability to customise the page by adding, removing and rearranging different categories, such as ‘News’, ‘Weather’ and ‘Entertainment’. The widget-based design was inspired by sites such as Facebook and iGoogle.[13] The new BBC homepage left beta stage on Wednesday, 27 February 2008 to serve as the new BBC Homepage under the same URL as the previous version did.


The websites include news from the BBC News website, a sports section, music, science, technology and entertainment pages, amongst other things. As might be expected, the website has a British orientation, although the home page, news section and sports section each give the reader a choice between UK and “International” versions.

In February 2001, BBC Online incorporated Douglas Adams’ previously independent h2g2 project into its group of web sites, and is now replacing all its existing message boards with the DNA software derived from that project. The site’s Collective magazine also uses the DNA software.

The website has extensive technical information available about its operation. The BBC also makes some of the content on and the BBC News Website available in XML format on its developer network Also, through participation in the Creative Archive Licence group, allows legal downloads of selected material via the Internet.


The BBC runs a comprehensive children’s website subsite. It includes information on all of CBBC’s shows along with several subsites covering art, sport, news, and other current events. Its message boards are especially popular with children who use them to communicate with each other about all of CBBC’s output among other salient topics for kids like bullying, books, and personal problems. The “Your Life” [14] page was especially geared to helping young people sort through their difficulties. ‘Your Life’ was subsequently closed though a professional psychotherapist agony uncle called “Ask Aaron” still provides answers to questions online and on interactive television through CBBC eXtra.

The BBC also runs a message board for young people named onion street.

There is integration between television output and website content with aspects of children’s programming have followup information on their websites.

Streaming media

A service, called BBC iPlayer, was launched in December 2007, which allows users to download both radio and TV content for up to seven days after broadcast. The television version allows users to either stream programmes or to download them using peer-to-peer and DRM technology.

Initially streams were generally broadcast in the RealAudio and RealVideo formats controlled by RealNetworks and the BBC drew criticism with some for using those closed formats which, at the time, could only be played using RealPlayer. In response to such criticisms, the BBC negotiated a deal with RealNetworks a ‘cut-down’ version of RealPlayer which did not contain as much advertising and marketing.

Windows Media has also been adopted and since Autumn 2006, a Windows Media stream of all national BBC radio stations has been available.

More recently, the BBC has been experimenting with MP3 downloads and podcasting facilities for an increasing number of radio shows, with a high level of success[citation needed]; a less publicised trial of Ogg Vorbis streams for certain programmes was less successful, and has now been discontinued.

Tracking cookies and privacy policy uses several third-party companies to log information from users, by means of cookies. The BBC lists the companies it uses in its privacy policy:[15]

  • Nielsen/Net Ratings and SageMetrics
  • Nedstat
  • Websidestory
  • Doubleclick
  • Bango

Users that block certain of these tracking domains will find certain parts of the BBC’s websites inaccessible. Doubleclick provides a partial optout mechanism, but it requires the user to accept another cookie, a DART cookie, from[16] Users blocking will be unable to do this.


The BBC’s site was initially entirely free from advertising, this was due to the BBC’s funding, derived primarily from compulsory television licence fees from UK viewers. BBC Worldwide who exploit BBC brands commercially have had several attempts at launching services online including in the late 90s.

In 2006, the BBC began making controversial plans to raise revenue by including advertising on BBC News pages served to non UK users. is currently freely available worldwide (via various URLs including but planned video services and a lower than expected licence fee settlement paid for by UK residents only has caused the BBC to consider ways of monetising its global popularity online. From November 2007, visitors from outside of the UK have seen banner advertisements on the site.

Prior to this there had been criticism from some, as web users outside the UK could use the services (including the entire BBC radio services[citation needed]) without having to pay for them. It has been suggested in the past that the BBC block users outside the UK[citation needed]. In addition, where rights to sporting events (such as certain football or cricket matches) do not include international online coverage, users from outside the UK are blocked from listening to commentaries.

In defence of its open policy, the BBC’s site is primarily hosted from two locations [17], New York and London. The London site is funded from the licence fee and the New York server is funded through a series of government grants (similar to the BBC World Service) and not directly by the licence fee[citation needed]. However those grants do ultimately come from the British public.

Graf report

In early 2004, the site was made the focus of a government review, launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, led by Philip Graf. Sections of the UK internet industry had argued that the BBC site offered things that were available in the commercial sector, creating unnecessary competition.

The review was published in July 2004 and it was recommended that the BBC “prioritise news, current affairs, education and information which is of value to the citizen.” In response the BBC also shut down a small number of sections of the site, including the Soaps section.

In November 2004, the Governors of the BBC announced a newer, much more tightly drawn remit for as part of their response to the review. They also announced, as Graf had recommended, a new approach towards external providers which will see aiming to spend at least 25% of its eligible budget on content and services through independent commissions by the end of 2006/07.

The implementation of the Graf report has seen the popular messageboards in the BBC Sport section shut down, as the BBC tries to promote its 606 brand, but these changes have proved unpopular as the interface has proven unusable and large numbers of content providers have abandoned the BBC site[citation needed].

Cult TV

From 1999 to 2005, the BBC ran a popular subsite called Cult TV. This subsite had news, star interviews, trivia, and other content popular with fans of the cult TV shows they covered. Examples of covered TV shows include The X-Files, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

On 15 July 2005, the BBC announced that the site was closing as of the end of the month, although the Doctor Who section would be unaffected as the series was an ongoing BBC concern. The announcement explained that this was “part of the restructuring of the BBC’s online activities”. It was promised that some of the content would be moved to new places on, although as of March 2008 it is currently still all online at the no-longer-updated Cult site.

Vulnerabilities in the system

In March 2007, a vulnerability was exposed in the BBC’s “Most Emailed” and “Most Read” news sections.[18] This vulnerability continues to exist in the system as of January 2008.[citation needed]


  1. ^ BBC Press Office (11 December 2008). “BBC launches PSB partnerships”. Press release. Retrieved on 13 December 2008.
  2. ^ Alexa Top 500 Sites Alexa
  3. ^ “The BBC is launching an on-line service…”. The Sunday Times (1994-04-17). Quoted in Connor, Alan (2007-12-25). “The WWW Info-Rainforest”. BBC Internet Blog. BBC. Retrieved on 2008-10-02.
  4. ^ British Broadcasting Corporation BBC
  5. ^ BBC Online – Homepage BBC
  6. ^ Boston Business Computing – OpenVMS Migration Solutions Boston Business Computing
  7. ^ BBC blew $375k on The Register
  8. ^ “BBCi heralds new interactive era”, BBC News (2001-11-07). Retrieved on 2 October 2008. 
  9. ^ “What is BBCi?”. BBC (sourced via Web Archive) (2002-12-15). Retrieved on 2008-10-02.
  10. ^ Gibson, Owen (2001-11-12). “A fresh i for BBC”. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2008-10-02.
  11. ^ “What is BBCi? – On the web”. BBC (sourced via Web Archive) (2002-12-15). Retrieved on 2008-10-02.
  12. ^ “BBC website gets new look and new name:”. BBC Press Office (2004-05-04). Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
  13. ^ A Lick of Paint for the BBC Homepage,, 13 December 2007
  14. ^ CBBC Your LifeBBC
  15. ^ BBC 2008. BBC – Homepage – Privacy and Cookies Policy. Retrieved 2008-07-07
  16. ^ || Privacy – Dart Ad Serving
  17. ^ Internet Services – Service Information BBC Internet Services
  18. ^ Statistics Hacking – Exploiting Vulnerabilities in News Websites PDF, Amrinder Arora, International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, Vol.7 No.3, March 2007
  • Latest on plans for including archive
  • Summary of results of Graf Review
  • BBC’s response to Graf review
  • Press release concerning radio podcasting and download trials
  • Press release announcing extended trial of iMP

See also

BBC portal
  • BBC News Online
  • BBC Guide to Comedy
  • BBC Green

External links

  • BBC Homepage at
  • BBC Home Archive at
  • in Pictures – gallery of designs on the Guardian website
  • Engineering Data at
  • Backstage at
  • Creative Archive at
  • BBC Commissioning at
  • BBC Shop
This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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