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A Glimpse Of The Year To Come

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 12:42 UK time, Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Just before the holiday break, I promised to come back with some more details of my C21 Media keynote. My apologies that it took a while to get back to you.

C21 was an important opportunity to share some of the exciting things that we are working on across PC, TV and Mobile services with the industry, and now I'd like to give you a glimpse of what the BBC will be doing in the next year. Let's start with our web activities, because 2008 will see nothing less than the complete reinvention of them...

bbc_homepage_logo.pngThe first glimpse of what the future holds has been available in beta since before Christmas in the form of our new homepage.

It's a major departure from the existing page and the design is new and fresh. The overall user experience can be best summed up as easy to use, yet functional and powerful. Over the next couple of months, we will be constantly refining and improving the new homepage. We want to make it simple for our users to find what they want and we want to help those users discover much more of the BBC's content that is relevant to their lives. Richard Titus has blogged about it here and here.

Our goal is to roll out the new look and feel across all services. One of the first areas where you will see this happen is with aggregation pages. It's an internal name for a project that aims to bring the best BBC content on any given topic together on one dynamically generated page. In the first quarter of '08, we will ship the first 500 of these pages and they will cover topics as countries and people. Let's say you are interested in a country like Italy. The plan is that the aggregation page on Italy pulls all the latest and greatest information from databases across our news, TV and radio divisions to provide one coherent view.

Another area of major innovation will be the broad availability of audio and video in a coherent way across the entire site. Right now we are still supporting more than one hundred different rich media experiences. I think it's confusing for consumers to have pop-up windows with all sorts of technology and bandwidth choices. Instead, we are moving ahead with one embedded media player for all of the BBC's content. The first fruits of our labour can be seen on BBC iPlayer which now also offers streaming. BBC News is also getting ready to ship an embedded media player with other parts of the BBC following.

Let's talk a bit about BBC iPlayer... Anthony Rose's podcast for Backstage gives you some of the detail. The BBC iPlayer marketing launch went into full swing on Christmas Day. Initial public response has been very positive with one million visitors to the BBC iPlayer site.

From my perspective, it shows that consumers love the ability to watch/listen to our content on their terms. The good news is that our product development efforts are in full swing for the next set of releases. Before the end of January, you will see some performance/usability tweaks. Before the end of March, we will have a complete overhaul with lots of exciting new features. More on that when we get closer...

2008 will become the breakthrough year for the BBC's interactive audience-facing services. The biggest ticket item we are working on is a complete refresh of our backend infrastructure. This is fairly boring stuff for the average consumer - but without it, we cannot move things forward. We are engineering a platform that will enable us to provide the license fee payer great, useful services across all IP-connected devices. Central themes we're embracing include dynamic content publishing, identity, social capabilities, widgetisation and proliferation of audio and video all the way up to HD quality. There are many more topics to cover for our online services; next time, however, I will take about the importance of BBCi and BBC Mobile and explain a bit more about our thinking for the evolution of these services.

Finally, I wanted to address some stories that have been spread by a handful of individuals in the open source community. It is true that I worked at Microsoft for a long time and frankly speaking, I am proud of that. Right now, my loyalties are to the BBC and the BBC alone. I will only make decisions that are in the best interest of the licence fee payer. My actions will speak louder than my words...

Erik Huggers is Group Controller, Future Media & Technology.


  1. At 04:01 PM on 09 Jan 2008, David Alexander wrote:

    I think that the BBC staff blogs work well in the service of glasnost and outrageous punditry.
    This post is a real eye-opener. Almost everyone would be proud to work for Microsoft, and as a reciprocal observation most free software people are followers of the Torvald's manifesto rather than the Stallman one. Obviously addressing 95% of the people first has to take precedence, even if the other 5% are going to be addressed in the end.

  2. At 08:36 PM on 09 Jan 2008, Carlos wrote:

    Proud to have worked for a company convicted in both the US and the EU of breaking the law by abusing its monopoly position? I just wanted to make sure I read that right.

    Why let a little thing like antitrust law stand in the way of your business plan? Corporate ethics is for losers I guess.

  3. At 04:16 PM on 10 Jan 2008, David Alexander wrote:

    Unix was invented by AT&T which had previously had several run-ins with the US government eventually split due to its anti-trust practices.
    This was nothing to do with their Unix work, of course, but not everyone who works for Microsoft makes illegal anti-trust decsions either. As with the debate about media players and DRM it is difficult to be absolutist without laying oneself open to accusations of hypocrisy.
    Pretty much every linux distro ships with a web browser and a media player - although usually more than one and they can be uninstalled.
    The BBC has contractual obligations to the programme production companies and non-compete requirements as part of its charter. Both of these require restrictions to downloading / saving / copying (essentially DRM). If the BBC open-sourced its player these would be the first functionality that would be added by independent developers. This is why they do not open source their player.

  4. At 05:21 PM on 17 Jan 2008, Dave Crossland wrote:

    (This is personal opinion only, not the views of any employers past or present.)

    Erik, just a quick comment to say thanks for this public reassurance that your decisions at the BBC are not unduly influenced by your past employment.

    I hope you'll make decisions that respect the 4 software freedoms of license fee payers :-)

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