Fifteen years of BBC Online

Wednesday 12 December 2012, 09:50

Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera Director, Future Media

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Innovation at the BBC

Just as radio and TV did before it, the digital revolution has fundamentally changed how our audiences access news, information and programmes.

As one of the first major organisations in the UK to embrace the web the birth of the BBC's websites 15 years ago is an important milestone in that evolution.

Our first web pages were developed from 1994 onwards as chronologued by Brandon Butterworth , but it wasn't until December 1997 that was officially launched.

Since this first online gateway in to the BBC we have continued to innovate at the cutting edge of web design and development.

From the BBC News, Sport and Weather sites to the launch of BBC iPlayer on Christmas day in 2007, the vast majority of the BBC's content and programmes are now available for our audiences to access when they want, wherever they are, on four screens - the PC, mobile, tablet and internet connected TV.

We've seen major growth in our online audience over this time going from 3.9 million UK adults per week in September 2002 to 22.7 million UK adults per week a decade later in September 2012 with an ever increasing number accessing our services via non-PC devices.

Last week we surveyed a representative sample of 9,200 BBC website users and asked them to choose from the top moments over the past 15 years of BBC Online.

Of those surveyed 50% said their top moment was the launch of BBC iPlayer, 15% chose the launch of the BBC website in 1997, 8% said the BBC's first truly digital Olympics at the London 2012 Games this summer and 5% the launch of websites for children of all different ages - Cbeebies and CBBC.

In 15 short years our websites are now at the heart of BBC broadcasting and have fundamentally changed news gathering and distribution, programme research and production and how our audiences share, interact, engage and get immersed in BBC content.

The pace of change is rapid - looking back just five years smartphones were in their infancy, there were no apps, tablets or internet-connected TVs - and part of the role of the BBC is to innovate at scale and bring the audience with us as the internet and digital platforms develop.

Just as the Queen's coronation in 1953 brought TV to mainstream audiences, the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer brought digital to audiences across the UK and around the world and set a new benchmark for innovation.

This is now the starting point from which we'll build in 2013 and beyond. We're looking ahead at an extremely exciting future just as we mark a milestone in our past.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and memories from the past 15 years in the comments on this blog and hear about where you think we may go in the future.

More information on the 15th anniversary of the BBC's websites is available at the following links.

- History of the BBC.
- Interview with John Birt on the early days of online, and the decision to launch the BBC's websites.
- A gallery and timeline from BBC News Online with key moments from the history of the site.
- An overview of links and videos marking 15 years of the BBC's websites.

Ralph Rivera is the Director of BBC Future Media.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This thread's been here since 1244 I deduce, and I'm one of the few to comment.

    I'm not sure that the passage of any given interval of time, by itself, in relation to any entity, makes much of a topic.

    It seems I'm perhaps not alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    been here since the beginning, a major milestone. my first memory of tv was Winston Churchill's funeral, my lasting memories of the net are bbc online, digital banking, wikipedia and i player, thank you, bbc, for the wealth of easily accessible knowledge you give us and a mainly enjoyable web experience

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Somewhat disappointing to see not so much as a nod to the innovation and creativity that preceded BBC Online when John Birt's first thought was to create a commercial online service that became You can't wipe out the fact that from 1996 was the only way to access BBC programmes online. We produced supporting content for many programmes for the first time including Gardeners World, Top Gear, Top Of The Pops and the Fast Show amongst many others. In 1999 was responsible for the first major online live coverage of Comic Relief, including the first online donation system in multiple currencies, behind the scenes interviews, webcams, games and all sorts of creative content that was being experienced for the first time. Of course it was right to bring all that back inside the public service but before there was a public service option at all was innovating, entertaining and growing an audience for online. It would be shameful to forget that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I came here via this from a person who doesn't appear to 'do' interactivity on blogs...

    'Ralph Rivera has blogged about the significance of BBC Online today'

    The relevant irony of an audience of 25,000,000 lience fee payers and 7,000,000,000 global visitors so far resulting in one per day (plus me) here at least is kind of interesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I was shocked to see adverts suddenly flashing up on the website. The sanctuary of the website is ruined. A dissapointing 'innovation'.


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