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Homepage Update

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Andrew MacInnes | 15:58 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

You may have read that yesterday we had some problems with the bbc.co.uk homepage.

Around lunchtime, the Feed Engine application which powers our customisable panels on our new-look homepage tied itself in knots. Rather than presenting the text and images in a nice neat moveable box, it got the text and the pictures mixed up. The result of this was lots of random binary characters being presented to our users.


This was picked up very quickly, both by our internal monitoring and complaints from our users.

Since the feeds system is integral to our homepage design, we decided to switch our homepage to our emergency "lite" version. The lite page is something we have on standby in case of large news events or technical problems which impact our ability to serve pages in a timely response to our readers. The page has no customisable panels and is far smaller in terms of page weight. Since it doesn't rely on the problem panels we decided to roll it out.

It took about 20 minutes or so from the page being broken to get the lite version up and running. We then started an investigation into the problem and when things looked stable we released the proper homepage again.

Only once before have we moved to the lite homepage because of a technical fault. The last time was caused by flooding. Normally, it's only huge news events that force us to scale back our page weight.


Then, at about ten to one in the morning, it happened again. Luckily we have monitoring in place so the relevant people were all woken up and the lite page reinstated. Through the night, the lite page was monitored until a dedicated developer turned up to work at six o'clock this morning to find the root cause and hopefully fix the issue once and for all. We turned back to the normal homepage at half past nine this morning.

Since then, it's been stable and we expect it to remain so. Touch wood.

Our apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Andrew MacInnes is Head of FM Operations, BBC Future Media & Technology. Simplified homepage grabbed by Ryan Morrison.


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