Delivering Quality First: Halving the number of top level domains on BBC Online
In March last year Erik Huggers noted that one symptom of the way BBC Online had grown over the years was the proliferation of TLDs that made up the site.
A challenge we set ourselves was to reduce the number from over 400 to under 200. This is a progress report.
The challenge had two parts. First, it made us ask which parts of the site really delivered in terms of audience benefit and therefore should be kept and built on. They formed part of our "fewer things, better" approach.
It is also true that some sites, for example, /news naturally absorbed older content into its online archive, allowing people to follow stories back in time. Our /programmes site also works in this way, designed to provide a long term record of BBC broadcast output. However, where a site was more stand alone and its content no longer attracted users, was becoming unreliable, or video and audio assets unplayable, it was easy enough to earmark it for closure.
Second, we had to decide how best to manage the legacy content. Even sites which had become out of date were likely to have some historical interest. We looked into possible online archiving solutions but none fitted the bill. So we have decided to store the core content from our older websites offline, allowing interested parties in future to be able to recreate at least some of the experience they offered.
A number of sites which previously had their own TLDs will become absorbed into BBC Online's new products. Their assets, therefore, will continue to be available.
For others, a typical lifecycle is emerging.
This goes from live to a "mothball" state, where the content still has value but is no longer updated, for example /palin.
At some stage mothballed content becomes stale or potentially damaging and it needs to be taken offline. At that stage a "tombstone" tells users what has happened and may offer alternatives.This also avoids breaking the user's journey. The material taken offline is stored for future reference, or deleted altogether.
For the record, here is our current list of TLDs which are earmarked for closure before the end of the year.
Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, BBC Online