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In response to site changes

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 10:34 UK time, Tuesday, 23 January 2007

We launched a new-look audio/video player on the News, Sport and Weather sites last week. I wrote about the changes here beforehand and have had lots of feedback from you since – thanks to all who’ve commented.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteThree of the main themes in your comments were: why don’t we link to relevant text stories from video clips, why don’t we use Flash for video, and what is our view of open standards. I’ve posted replies to these below...

Daniel wrote saying, “can I suggest that when you have a link to a video or audio news story you also provide a link to the written story as well…

Many of the video clips on the News website are associated with text stories – so you launch the video from inside a story page - text and video are therefore tied together. But we also promote individual video clips in their own right when the video itself is particularly noteworthy – so for example today on the front page we’ve had the UK Ministry of Defence footage of a dramatic Royal Marine rescue in Afghanistan. In such cases there’s usually also a text article on the site which tells the story and also contains the video clip.

So those who prefer reading to watching (or who can’t watch because their PC isn’t set up for it) are not being deprived of the story. It’s just that in the video promotion slots on the front page we don’t as a rule put in additional links to the text stories, because we reckon you’ll be able to find them elsewhere on the site. But your feedback on this point has given us something to think about.

(I've asked Kevin Hinde from our technical team to help answer the following questions...)

    A number of people asked "why don't you use Flash?
    "The BBC is trying to make its video available to the widest possible audience. This means that when we choose the formats in which to stream our audio and video clips and live programmes, we have to take account of: All the operating systems in use, and the number of people who use them (this is not just desktop operating systems - we need to take account of mobiles too); whether a player is available for that format on a particular operating system; and whether it is easy to play that video on an operating system.
    "For popular operating systems we want to make sure that our video can be seen by non-expert users who would be unwilling or unable to install extra software or plug-ins. People in offices are also often unable to install extra software.
    "Video quality and compression rates are obviously very important to us. We must provide good value for the licence payer so cost is a factor - we have to invest in infrastructure and licences for encoding and streaming servers, and in bandwidth.
    "So why don't we make our clips available in Flash? It has been possible to deliver video in Flash since version 6 but it was not until version 8 that it got good enough for us to consider using it - early versions had lip sync problems with longer clips and the codecs gave poor quality and compression rates compared to Real and Windows Media. According to Adobe, 89% of PCs using the Internet in the UK, Canada, USA, Germany, France and Japan have Flash 8 or above so it does well on the criteria above.
    "The plain answer is that the timing did not work well for us. YouTube launched in 2005, the same year as Flash 8, they started with a clean slate and that's what they chose. The BBC has been providing streamed video since 1997 so we have already made a huge investment in Real and Windows infrastructure. We think that our current choice of formats does pretty well: Windows Media Player is widely available, it is installed by default on new Windows machines, and for many users it is the only option; Real Player is available as an alternative, and for platforms which do not support Windows Media; The video quality at the bitrates we use is excellent in both codecs.
    "But of course, things change, and we are always looking at the right way to move forward. We do use Flash video in some places on the BBC site, but we're not able to do it for news clips yet.
    "Also - Real make a special version of their Windows player for us with the commercial extras removed. And we know that Macs with the Flip4Mac plug-in have problems with our Windows Media streams - we are looking into it."
    Several posters asked why we do not support open standards.
    "It is important to distinguish between different kinds of open. Standards like H.264 are open in the sense that they are not owned by a single company, not in the sense for just anyone to contribute to the standard or in the sense that it is possible to implement the standard without royalty fees or licensing terms. Standards like Ogg and Dirac are patent free.
    "Proprietary media players may choose not to support open standards fully, whether the standard is patent free or not, because of licensing or other business reasons. There are open source players which support an incredible range of open and proprietary standards but we cannot rely on our users being able to install a particular open source video player. We will be very happy to make our streamed clips available in an open standard as soon as the right combination of player support, streaming server support, and codec quality means that it would let us tick more of the boxes. We regularly look at this and there is nothing yet which is compelling enough for us to make the jump.
    ("For info, the Dirac project aims to produce a wavelet-based video coding algorithm suitable for open source implementation but it is not ready for use in production and we're looking for people who can contribute.")

Thanks to Kevin for that. Finally... some posts mention the BBC's iPlayer project, which is a related but different thing - it's a project that would allow you to catch up on BBC programmes you have missed, similar to Channel 4's 4oD. It is currently in the middle of a public value test.


  • 1.
  • At 01:25 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Ewan Mac Mahon wrote:

We will be very happy to make our streamed clips available in an open standard as soon as the right combination of player support

That's not going to happen without you - companies that make operating systems and have media shops like MS and Apple don't want to encourage free and open formats; they want to lock people in to their platform. The BBC doesn't work for them, it works for us, and it should not be colluding in this anti-customer tactic.

As you've said in this piece you already have a special BBC version of Realplayer available - why not use open formats and have a special BBC version of (e.g.) VLC instead? That way non-technical users could get a simple, non invasive, advertising free player direct from the BBC, and the rest of us would be free to use whatever we chose on whatever platform we choose.

  • 2.
  • At 02:13 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Ji-won Choi wrote:

I'd like to commend on BBC's efforts to make their website as widely acceptable as possible.

As a web designer, I am well aware of various formats one can choose to make a website as flashy as possible - Flash included! However, a quick visit to a Flash-heavy website (try one of many US sites) immediately alerts to the downside: website becomes much slower to load, especially on Internet Explorer, and once loaded the browsing experience suffers from poor scrolling. And all these without any obvious benefit to the actual content.

It's easy to overlook the fact that there is an incredibly diverse spec among computers, and it's important to enable as many users as possible to experience the website as it was designed to be. To do that, websites should focus on delivering its content based on lower browsing standards that are most widely available rather than incorporating new technologies for visual attractiveness.

I think the BBC has got the balance just right. Well done!

  • 3.
  • At 02:29 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

As respondent #1 has chosen to dive even technically deeper than the author kicked-off, can I just bung-in my 'legally blind' perspective: As a person with severe visual impairmemt, I try to work with video players - to maximise the return I get from a spooled media experience. My concern is that too wide a gamut of player types makes for much more troubled access. Whilst I dislike monopolies on principle, Windows Media Player is something I've benchmarked for ease of use. My experience of Real Player is that its advertising linkage is more pernicious than WM and so I avoid it like the proverbial. However, 'fringe' and unaffiliated players would need to be particularly user-friendly to draw me from the ubiquitous Gatesway(!)

  • 4.
  • At 02:30 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • David wrote:

Since the servers for the address are, I imagine, located in the UK, is there any need to bother with patent licenses for implementable-but-patented algorithms, like H264?

Software patents are explicitly illegal in the EU, after all, so you should be able to tell the patent holders, with anatomical precision, exactly where they can shove their unenforceable and unlawful software idea patents.

There is, I suppose, a threat that Fraunhöfer or whoever might try taking you to court in the unfree world that enforces these idea patents, but unless the BBC is doing something strange to get your servers working, that shouldn't be much problem. I know there's a case in front of the US Supreme Court as we speak, where AT&T is trying to enforce software patents against Microsoft even though the actual "patented" inventions are outwith the US, but the arguments there rely on Microsoft exporting (otherwise unpatented) software from the US in order to make the product...

"Since the servers for the address are, I imagine, located in the UK"

Not all of them are.

  • 6.
  • At 03:03 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Ewan #1

Why would the BBC make a stream for VLC? The whole point of VLC is that it supports video codecs designed for proprietary players.

And whats wrong with real player? Its free and available for windows, mac and linux. Its easy to install, even in linux with most distros its installed as default and if it isn't it can be esily installed as long as you have a decent software manager ie: smart and the repositories setup. I myself use opensuse 10.2 and it works very well.

So i don't see the problem.

One thing that does bug me though, on the first day i noticed that the BBC video headlines had changed in appearance etc it had also to my delight extended a great deal on my RSS feed in my browser. Before the feed only gave you around 5 headline video clips. But all of a sudden i had dozens to choose from including things like newsnight which was great! But the next day it went back as it was (5 items) just with the new look. Whats going on with that?

Make my feed long again!

  • 7.
  • At 03:19 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Eddie wrote:

The day Auntie moves to Flash is the day I stop using the site.

On my Mac I use Quicktime players, on my PCs I use Windows Media Players - after many years using the darn machines professionally I've come to the conclusion that less is more - I don't install every player/codec under the sun because you end up with problems with file associations and conflicts.

I think the Beeb has got the balance right, and things just work.

Obviously I do miss out on YouTube/Google video, but having seen the contents on other folks machines, I'm not overly disappointed. I remember what Tom Lehrer said about folk music "The problem with folk music is that it is written by the people..... imagine what would happen if professional song writers had done the job instead". Quite.

  • 8.
  • At 04:18 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Smith wrote:

Ewan Mac Mahon post is what I would like promote. Well said!

You (the BBC) do work for us and should be developing and promoting open standards without question, even if in the short term standards suffer. Ogg / Theora??

Flash is a big no no. Even on linux. My apple ibook runs linux. Its a ppc processor so flash will not work. ( i should not have 2 buy the newest version of osx just to get the bbc). I support all versions of the bbc website / text service. My mobile phone and pda love them. Streaming video is not what I want.

Thanks for clear response, Kevin Hinde.

What were the reasons for the suspension of Ogg research a few years back? It seems if you'd gone with that solution at the time, we'd all be using it as our primary choice.

(Presuming the BBC would have devoted more time to making Windows software easier to obtain)

#1 Ewan,

I couldn't have said it better!

With the amount of impact the BBC could have in shaping media acceptance, why do they ignore the abilities they have?

With the recent "Memorandum" between the BBC and Microsoft, you could have easily said as part of the agreement, we require you to implement *this* open (-source, -patent, and -license) codec for your new operating system, and provide a free downloadable codec through your WMP find-a-codec servers for the previous (XP, 2k).

You have the power as one of the largest broadcasters on the net, you just don't use it.

#6, (Realplayer) is available for 32bit Windows, Mac and Linux. Only.

I currently use Real Player as my only means to view BBC content, and fear that in a few years, i'll be classed as such a minority that you'll stop considering me.

  • 10.
  • At 04:44 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Antlers wrote:

Honestly, I am not really bothered about the flash vs real vs anything else debate. That can be fixed later.

What I am bothered about is that the new player is a step backwards as regards overall usability. (note 'overall' in previous sentence - I'm not denying it displays and plays video in a perfectly usable manner - I am arguing that it changes the way we use the player to make viewing videos more inefficient).

Some scenarios:

- If I want to view news, sports and weather, I am now forced to navigate around the BBC website to find what I want.

- Going back to the Audio/Video web page every time I want to view a different piece of content is a waste of time.

- We used to have a content title, and a content description (old player) - now, for a lot of the video items, we just have content title (audio/video page). i.e. you are giving us less information on each piece of content.

- I can no longer browse for other interesting content at the same time as viewing video - I have to lose focus on the player and navigate around the website.

- The BBC video/audio player was great - it was ahead of its time because it made it easy to look through a lot of content. We have lost this functionality.

Making something easy to use by removing all the good bits is not a step forwards.

  • 11.
  • At 05:36 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • David wrote:

Sam, VLC does NOT support proprietary codecs. There are other open source media players, such as mplayer, which do, but VLC takes it's licensing arrangements (the GNU general public license) seriously and that means that the makers will only support linking their code with 'free software' or 'open source' codecs. Sure, you can sometimes watch films in nominally closed formats (early Realplayer or Windows Media versions, for instance) in VLC, but only if some lovely open source people have reverse-engineered the codecs (a VERY difficult job) and written an open source alternative.

As for what's wrong with Realplayer? It's closed source binary-only software that can ONLY run on Windows Mac or Linux (leaving less popular operating systems completely out of the loop), and Real has been notorious in the past for filling their media players with adware and spyware, and have only removed whatever malware security researchers happen to found and published. I certainly won't have it on any of my computers - who knows what other nastiness is in there that's still kept secret?

The BBC is a taxpayer(well license free)-funded public service and shouldn't be in the business of inflicting software vendor's lock-in practices on it's viewers and listeners, particularly those vendors who victimise their users with malware. Using open media formats, where anyone with the technical skills can write a program to display the media, is perhaps the only sure way to guard against that sort of thing.

  • 12.
  • At 08:21 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Rikki wrote:

Open Source fans clearly shout the loudest, but the idea just isn't suitable for the mainstream user.

I completely understand the reasons for *not* using Real and support them (I hate it too), but it is installed on many new computers as standard. WMP is on every new Windows PC as standard. This makes it very easy for novice users to use BBC video and audio with very little fiddling. Ask an average person what 'Windows Media' is and they could probably tell you, even if only in vague terms. Ask them what Ogg is and wait for the blank stare.

On Mac, RealOne (the version of RealPlayer) is actually very good. No rubbish bundled in, and it only runs when you tell it to. My only gripe is it doesn't use the OSX styling, but that's minor and doesn't affect the functionality. Flip4Mac is easily installed if you want to view WMV, and linked directly from the Microsoft WMP site to aid novices.

Your average computer user is not going to be using Linux because it just isn't suitable (I can imagine the horror on the OS peoples faces now, but I'm sorry, it isn't even close). While the ideas and philosophy behind OS is great, at this moment in time it just isn't feasible for the masses - there are exceptions of course (FF).

There's a reason that commercial software does better, and that's because the company has to provide what the user wants if they are to make money. They have huge R&D budgets. Open Source suffers badly from the 'well I want it, so I'll put it in' mentality, and this (on the whole) makes Open Source software somewhat more difficult to use for your average non-techie.

I'd rather video was in Flash personally, but can understand that changing the multimedia platform for an organisation the size of the BBC is not something you can decide to do in your lunch break. But I do hope it's a consideration for the future - YouTube and is testament to the success of Flash-based media.

  • 13.
  • At 09:11 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Geoff Lane wrote:

The Beeb has a big enough potential audience to justify producing a proper open source package for audio/visual material.

If the Beeb were to jumpstart such a project there are many people around the world who would help because Microsoft and Real don't really want to support everybody (for different reasons, but the result is the same) yet we all want AV on our various operating systems.

I've met people from the Beeb who seem to be perfectly capable of running such a project. Why not give them a chance to show the rest of the world exactly how good the BBC is?

  • 14.
  • At 09:24 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Arnold Day wrote:

Hmmmm. I just noticed that if I select Real in "preferences" the video only works if I tell it to use the standalone player.

If I choose WMP, I am asked to download an Active X file.

  • 15.
  • At 10:16 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Terry wrote:

I find it odd that you still defend Real Player when I seem to remember hardly a single person stood up in favour of Real Player in response to the original blog. Indeed, most posts actively hated Real Player, largely becuase of the poor quality.

I can't remember coming across another site on the web in the last, ooh - six months that has required me to use Real Player.

  • 16.
  • At 11:02 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • david mayo wrote:

I haven't used the new vid format just read the article so may be wrong with this comment but:

with the old -style vid i can see it ok but can't save it.
also I'm on dial -up, not broadband unlimited connection for fixed fee so don't want to be online and keep a page open all the time
If you put it on the web for all why can't we save it if it is public domain? (I respect IP rights and this is for personal viewing not distribution etc)

My particular case in point was about one of my interests (the first flight of the Airbus A380 as it happens)
Sometimes I would like to see it again-I know I can search for it but it's a hassle

(also I'm not commenting on the format issueI know about flash,VLC,Real, DIXV etc.)

Please add a save feature if BBC hasn't already

Again, as a web developer I have a good grounding in the technology that has to support such services as the BBC.

While YouTube has been extremely successful and is a very good example of Flash, I personally think that many other sites abuse Flash. I'm glad that the BBC have not followed this trend over the years with their website. Also, as someone rightly posted, Flash support under Linux is somewhat limited, especially on the PPC, and 64bit architectures. This just shows the drawbacks of closed software.

I do think it would be nice to look at an alternative to RealPlayer. While I dislike Windows Media Player as well, as you rightly stated it works out of the box for around 80% of your user base who are running Windows. Likewise, While Windows Media Player is not the most efficient of media players, it is not intrusive in the same way to RealPlayer.

It would be nice if you use RealPlayer to make it clear to users that there are alternatives to the official Real Player software, because Real Player has a nasty habit of over taking the system in the way it installs applets and tray icons that seem to get in the way of most users.

  • 18.
  • At 12:35 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Charlene wrote:

May I add how happy I am that the BBC is staying away from open source software. I haven't found an open source program of any kind yet that didn't require the user to have significantly more technical knowledge than the vast majority of computer users could ever possess. *Please, please* don't let the technonerds have their way with this. Stay with easy-to-use proprietary systems like Real and Windows Media.

  • 19.
  • At 12:52 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Michael Kaye wrote:

You say "The BBC is trying to make its video available to the widest possible audience" such I've never really understood why you moved away from Quicktime all those years ago.

Surely Quicktime has the greatest installed base, handles streaming and provides the best codecs?

Please to hear you are looking into why Flip4Mac does not work...

Regards, Michael.

  • 20.
  • At 08:23 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Personally, I can't stand Real Player. I've installed the 'Real Lite' codec instead. This gives you the ability to play Real Media files in the player of my choice - mediaplayer classic.

I'm in New Zealand and regularly use the BBC video player to catch up on news back home.

The previous player allowed me to navigated quickly between news stories I'm interested in and programmes like Newsnight.

The new player seems to require me to navigate to the various story pages and then relaunch the player for each one. I also have to find the newsnight site before viewing the programme. I've been using my Google search box in my browser to find Newsnight as it is quicker than the BBC search.

Please switch to Flash as soon as possible. It's now capable of delivering much better video than either Real or WMP. There's a reason why You Tube was so successful - Flash is very easy to use. Practically everyone who has the bandwidth to view video has it installed already.

I really wish the BBC would focus on Audio and Video content. There's a million sites producing text content covering the news but only the BBC produces quality, ad-free audio and video.

  • 22.
  • At 11:14 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

It's all very well for the BBC to say that they have a special version of Real player, but customers do not.

RealPlayer is an advertising-led piece of software which is particularly intrusive in its background activity and one of the first pieces of software I uninstall from client machines following complaints of slow performance. If it is so suited to your needs, allow your users to download a codec to play .ram files through their native media player. RealAlternative does the job admirably.

  • 23.
  • At 12:41 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Mark Knoop wrote:

* 18.
* At 12:35 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
* Charlene wrote:

"I haven't found an open source program of any kind yet that didn't require the user to have significantly more technical knowledge than the vast majority of computer users could ever possess."

Um, sorry to break it to you Charlene, but you were using opensource software when you wrote this post. The BBC's website (as does about 65% of the internet[1]) runs on the Apache webserver - an opensource project.


I work for a web development company producing video for many content providers including Disney. When it comes to video, there is little argument that Flash is the most accessible format across all platforms. You can see the version penetration at Adobe's site here:

  • 25.
  • At 12:59 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • John T wrote:

Real Player is on the way out if you ask me. And for users at work who cannot install codecs or other software, what are we to do? I can watch clips from the news pages, but not the TV pages...

  • 26.
  • At 02:45 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

I like the BBC's streamlined layout - visually. Just because flash is a little more advanced technically does not mean we have to use it! Myself I come here for the news!

Sites like CNN don't look any better in my opinion. A classic example of too much flash is the majority of MySpace pages - gordy, too much colour, and way too many images flashing! A complete mess basically! Unfortunately using flash does not account for taste..

Also the BBC does not use adds. Adobe need to put something in there to turn them off. Firefox 2.0 lets me do that for all adds individually - except flash! Adobe - sort yourselves out!!

(Although there is a link you can get called "Zap" which will turn all flash on/off as you wish!)

The BBC site compares with google, streamlined and functional.

  • 27.
  • At 03:31 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

I feel I must get the record straight about Charlene's comment on open source software. I would not want anyone reading this or anyone in the BBC management thinking they should avoid open source for this website - or in their offices to save a lot of money. I'd like to know which open source packages Charlene found harder to use. She may have had one bad experience and I would not like just one experience to put her off. She must remember that all packages are hard to learn at first. If you switch to open office for example it will be more difficult at the start because you are not familiar with it. The same would happen to someone who switched from Open Office to MS Word. We forget that to begin with all packages are a little difficult to learn. The good news is a more experienced computer user can very quickly switch between different packages. But all people can, it just takes a little time. The hard confusing period lasts a lot longer than what you think and then you make rapid progress. Do not give up Charlene!

  • 28.
  • At 06:03 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Ewan Mac Mahon wrote:

To Rikki at 12 and Charlene at 18 - we open source fans aren't demanding a player that only works on Linux, or even a player that work on Linux at all. We're asking for open formats that work for everyone; Windows users, Mac users, Linux users, PDA users, smartphone users, OLPC users.....

We're not suggesting everyone install Linux (at least not in this thread :-) ), and as for open source software needing "more technical knowledge than the vast majority of computer users could ever possess" - have you not heard of Firefox? It's an example of exactly what the BBC should be doing - easy to use, works on multiple systems, free of ad/spyware and respectful of the users' wishes.

  • 29.
  • At 06:43 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

I think you've taken the right approach at present. However I'd be concerned to see too much of a shift in the balance in favour of audio / video stories in general, particularly if no plain text version is available.

I can't view these clips at work (stripped-out network machine with no sound card installed!) and at home I have a fairly elderly system which can't cope with an increasing number of the flashier, animated web pages which are becoming more popular amongst designers.

As a public service broadcaster you do need to remember that we don't live in an ideal world; hence people use a huge variety of legacy machines to access the site. Some can't afford (or simply don't have the inclination) to keep up with the latest developments in IT (I think computing professionals frequently forget this!)

And it's obvious from the HYS pages that many users from outside the UK visit the site - sometimes from developing countries and also using outdated or communal equipment. It would be a shame to deny them content or their frequently insightful contributions.

In short it's very annoying when an interesting story catches one's eye only to realise that it's in video form and therefore can't be accessed!

I moved to Linux to get AWAY from all this monopolictic, proprietory, vendor-lockin rubbish.
I couldn't agree more with David (#11) about Open Source.
Why can Auntie Beeb supply an Ogg Theora video feed in addition to WM and Real?
Despite installing RealOne on my Ubuntu laptop, the only way for me watch BBC videos is to get the feed's URL with UnPlug, and paste that into RealOne, which is hardly convenient. And I'll be damned if I have to use Windows Media.

  • 31.
  • At 11:55 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Jim-UK wrote:

Those worried about the bloat and hidden nasties in realplayer should grab real alternative, you can view real media files without having a ton of junk installed on your PC.

  • 32.
  • At 02:13 AM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • madjackalope wrote:

I like the new changes, A++

Mad Jackalope

  • 33.
  • At 02:33 AM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Mac Guy wrote:

Why not Quicktime or srict MPEG4? Quicktime proves it can deliver great video at low botrates.

MPEG4 is open and the default for Macs via Quicktime and Windows via WMP9+. And it's supported under Linux via VLC.

So, why not just provide 1 stream that can be used across all platforms with great quality?

Maybe because MS is "sweetening the pot" to keep you with the proprietary WMV formats?

  • 34.
  • At 08:07 AM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

The BBC link to Real takes you to the download page which has a special version of Real Player sans adverts. Which makes the commercial onslaught a bit more palatable at least.

  • 35.
  • At 09:40 AM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • ronan wrote:

I usually avoid any and all video streaming on the internet, (except for youtube), I did try to make an exception for the BBC but I found it horrible and clunky, Real Player never worked properly for me and WMP was only a little better.

I tend to agree with the views of #1 and those who say that the BBC should not be supporting propriety softwares and a monopolistic corporation. However two points:

1) Instead of complaining about it why don't enterprising BBC readers create a BBC friendly version of VLC? Isn't that the point of open source/free software?

2) How does the BBC address the reality that WMP is installed on the majority of work based personal computers and that those office workers often can't install other software.

  • 36.
  • At 12:05 PM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

It's interesting to see that iPlayer is still going through a public value test. It'd be even more interesting to know how much has been spent on this project so far, with no guarantee that it'll go ahead.

I appreciate that some work would have been necessary, simply in order to ensure the the people carrying out the public value test knew what it was they were assessing. But my impression (from talking to a few people inside BBC New Media) is that there has been an enormous investment in this project over the last year, without any guarantee that the plug won't be pulled on it.

  • 37.
  • At 01:00 PM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Damon Evans wrote:

I agree with the posters who have complained about the new BBC media player. I just cannot work out for the life of me why you would take a brilliant media player and then take it back two years. Browsing for other video clips from within the media player is totally logical; navigating back to the 'launch page' each time is nonsensical. I rate the BBC website as the best on the web, but sometimes I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. Who was consulted before this error was made? I really can't see why any user would applaud this change. Sort it out, please!

  • 38.
  • At 02:07 PM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Alyssa M wrote:

I use computers running several different operating systems which Macromedia simply don't provide any kind of Flash Player for (such as Linux on powerpc).

Real happily provide software which runs on most of these (even if it isn't terribly reliable), and I can use open source software on all of them to play the Windows Media streams.

Moving to require Flash - as some parts of the BBC News website already have, to my dismay - would stop me from being able to access the content at all.

  • 39.
  • At 05:41 PM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Sprocket999 wrote:

As the owner of a Web Design Agency, we commend the BBC for the sane and practical approach to its online presence. That said, I visit this site every day. I also would like to take this moment to say I (we) agree 100% with the comments of poster 2. Ji-won Choi, who echos our sentiments exactly. We said, Ji-won!

  • 40.
  • At 01:14 PM on 26 Jan 2007,
  • Maff Long wrote:

Real works - except if you are on a laptop and move locations - having to click an unclick proxy settings depending on location is not easy.

WMV is fine for PC but no good on the Mac. Flip-4-Mac isn't up to the job.

Flash is OK (no proxy settings to worry about) - but the quality isn't as good as some of the other methods.

Surely Quicktime is the best option?

The overuse of microsoft is not good. Especially with the more restricted content - like the protected Blue Planet clips. This is only availble to Windows Users, with the latest OS & WMP. How does that realte to :
"The BBC is trying to make its video available to the widest possible audience."

  • 41.
  • At 08:23 PM on 27 Jan 2007,
  • Stephen Kingdom wrote:

Nearly everyone giving feedback here seems very concerned about which codec the BBC should be using. But surely the most pressing issues are the retrograde step in speed and ease of use, and the confusing way information is now presented to the user. I find it particularly annoying that the links to the video clips are now in a different window, and find the presentation of so much material on the main news pages to be unnecessarly time-consuming.

I agree totally with the comments of Antlers, poster no. 10.

  • 42.
  • At 09:23 AM on 28 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Bourne wrote:

The crux of this matter is as Antlers describes in post no. 10.
It is not not not about which player this, which player that.
The fact is a perfectly good news source has been ruined

  • 43.
  • At 04:37 AM on 08 Feb 2007,
  • Mandy wrote:

I will NEVER use Real Player again. EVER. I have now avoided any and all sites that use it.

Real never works properly for me, or any other person I have spoken to about it. My biggest complaint however is the fact that it loads your computer with a ton of unneeded crapola that slows your computer down and infests itself into everything you can think of. Then when you want to get ride of it, its a huge circus.

I finally got FED UP with Real Player.

I am fine with WMP and don't see too much of a problem using it.. If its something the BBC feels its needed, personally I have not seen or had any problems with that. Get away from Real Player.

  • 44.
  • At 08:38 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • M B wrote:

i'm not for abandoning closed formats altogether, but i can't see why the beeb doesn't support an opensource standard in addition to the existing ones.
i can't imagine encoding costs would be that much, they could easily be done on a regular PC, and with no licensing fees.
realplayer isn't that useable on ppc linux,
the powerpc playstation 3 supports linux installs and would represent a large potential userbase. aswell as anyone who wishes to use a totally random OS, or one for a portable device.
no reason not to?

I've emailed the bbc a few times re: media frustrations - the bbc's strict use of windows media player / real player (except for the bbc2 site which has video that works cross platform)- really its time to cut the losses on the investment with real player etc and enter 2007 with flash video, which offcourse can also do a lot more than simply play video/audio very well on the widest selection of os and platforms

enough is enough!


  • 46.
  • At 02:13 PM on 21 Mar 2007,
  • Ranjit Wassan wrote:

I understand completely the BBC's posistion as they are obviously tied-in. They have to do the best with the publics money so although they would probably love to rip up their agreements and go through a lengthy conversion process its not entirely feasible...

However in my humble opinion the BBC is not using its main asset well enough, yes you guessed it, the fact that they are the BBC!!!.

I think if possible they should call in Google and ask them if they would be willing to help them out with the proprietary lock in problem in return for being able to search accross ALL bbc content from Google Video/Youtube.

Please note the Search only, I am not suggesting that they allow them to host the data, the beeb are good enough at that themselves. Maybe just call them in and get them to pay for the move to flash and get some help/tips on migration. Google have the technology to filter search results based on location. Ie British tax payers money paid for thsi show so someone in the states cant watch it...

It can happen and such a deal would be attractive to all parties...


  • 47.
  • At 09:53 AM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • Christian wrote:

C'mon, who does need Real Player anymore? In my new machine, 2 months old, I managed not to install it yet. It's said to see that I should install it only because of BBC Radio. I think there are other good and more diffuse options at the moment(wmp, flash, vlc).

Said that, for sure no one would recommend the BBC website should be Flash. Probably they meant only the audio and video content. Flash is definitely more diffuse and runs on all the platforms.

Takes a bit of work but BBC World Service plays in Ubuntu Linux using mplayer.

mplayer rtsp://

(all on one line)

I have a launcher in my panel:
Tyep: Application in Terminal
Name: BBC
Command: (same as above)

I stole an icon from lyngsat

Probably not too hard to make a wrapper for all video and audio.

  • 49.
  • At 08:59 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Richard Ellicott wrote:

What a joke, all I care about is getting rid of real player.

Apparently their descision is that mobile phones are more important than desktop operating systems like Windows X64 and Vista (64 Bit).

So it looks like I'm locked out from the bbc content for a long time then...

Unless I downgrade to Windows XP or a Mac that is. Or perhaps you could tell me what mobile phone I need to buy?

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