Changes to international pages (4)
Hello. Here's an update on the recent changes in access to the UK and international front pages of the website which have been the subject of several previous posts (10 June, 15 June and 19 June) and lots of comments and queries.
There are two main things to say:
First, the project team has gone through your feedback over the past week and given replies to specific queries, which are further down this post. They have also compiled a Help page of FAQs which will cover many of the questions you've asked and pull all the answers together in one place.
Second, while we understand the annoyance and frustration many of you feel about the removal of the option to switch between UK and international versions of the site, we won't be restoring it at this point in the site's development. Why? Please read on:
We're working on other ways to open up the range of choices about what you can read and watch, wherever you are on the site, as part of an overall review of the site's design, including both index and story pages.
But, for now, after considering all the options and all your feedback, the separation of editions based on IP addresses really does still look to us like the most viable approach to a whole set of technical, design and editorial challenges which we face as we develop the website and improve it for both UK and international audiences.
Here are the main reasons again:
• we have an unusual requirement when it comes to developing the BBC website: it carries advertising internationally but not in the UK, and we have to build and design for both these situations simultaneously
• the site carries advertising internationally so that UK licence fee payers don't cover international costs
• some content on the site is available in the UK but not internationally, notably certain rights-restricted video
• up to now, we have had: a UK edition without ads, a UK edition with ads, an international edition with ads and an international edition without ads, all in addition to some content which is visible in the UK but not internationally
• managing all those combinations within our existing design framework had become impractical as well as expensive and, critically, had started to affect our ability to find the best ways of improving a whole range of other things in the months ahead
Your frank comments over the last few weeks have given us a lot to think about. We are making some immediate changes to the international-facing site, such as the addition of specific UK content like the UK Your Money section on the international business pages and a broader selection of UK and international topics to the Have your Say pages.
We're also investigating whether we can introduce the postcode local personalisation box onto the UK index of the international edition.
But although the UK and world headlines are all there on both versions of the site, we now know how much many of you miss the ability to choose which front page to look at. That's something we are taking on board as we look at how we continue to develop the site.
Now here are some more of your specific queries answered, and the project team which have answered them is busy working on a full FAQs page incorporating these and all the others, which will be available soon.
In the meantime, if you have specific questions which we haven't answered yet, please send them to this Help inbox, which the team will monitor, so that they can reply and add any new replies to the rest, and make them easy to find in one place: SiteVersionsFeedback@bbc.co.uk
Local UK content
User andyrocky in Denver, Colorado, wrote that the UK News page provided him with a valuable link to his old home, and wanted to see the weather and local news in Birmingham, as well as Aston Villa headlines.
We are still investigating whether the personalisation box, which is on the UK front page, can be added to the international version of the site. In the meantime, comprehensive local news for regions around the country is available in the UK section and subsections of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
News of Aston Villa and other English and Scottish clubs is available in the My Club section of BBC Sport.
The BBC Weather pages allow you to search for a town in the UK by name or postcode and to set the location as a default forecast.
UK-based users seeing the international version
We have resolved many of the problems experienced by users in the UK using the AOL browser who were being served the wrong edition. AOL has provided the BBC with a range of proxies used by its subscribers and we now recognise those users as being UK-based.
Some UK users, however, are occasionally routed via proxies outside this range. This is outside our control and appears to occur only within the AOL browser - not on other browsers. This should not mean that users outside the UK will see the UK version, which was a concern raised in the 19 June post. However, the routing policy used by AOL is within its control alone.
Some BBC News category pages are not appearing to AOL users even though they can see the UK edition. We are working with AOL to determine whether this is a caching issue within the AOL browser.
UK-based users seeing the international version at work
Many e-mailers and blog commenters said that they worked for companies in the UK but were seeing the international version of the site in their offices. This is because companies route their internet traffic through servers outside the UK.
It is not possible for the BBC to distinguish which users within a company are based within the UK and which are outside, and although those affected will be able to access the same stories as before, employees of companies who use international servers will continue to see the international version of our news pages. Users on international proxies, which make up less than 1% of overall usage, should not be served advertising, and anyone seeing advertising in the UK should contact us using this form.
Users in the UK who are used to seeing the international version
Some users pointed out that there are many people in the UK who preferred to view the International version of the site.
The World News page on the UK site offers a global view of international events and breaking news, as well as subsections containing news from various world regions. Users in the UK will still be able to access those, and we will continue to reflect international news as part of our overall front page coverage on the UK version of the site.
Isle of Man
Ckinlay wrote from the Isle Of Man that IP detection forced him to see the UK version of the site. Residents of the Isle of Man, as payers of the licence fee, are served the same content seen by the residents on the mainland.
We are working on a solution for some Blackberry users in the UK who have been seeing the international site because of the way their devices connect to the internet.
Pre-roll ads on video
User jacksonkelsie commented on the One Minute World News video summary which is available to the international audience, saying that an advertising lead of between 15 and 30 seconds defeated the point of a quick and convenient one-minute summary.
Pre-roll advertisements are shown on our on-demand video to fund the cost of distributing it to our international audience, but we are investigating the best way to improve the user experience around our video internationally and hope to make the advertisements less intrusive by doing things like limiting the number of times ads are shown and working with advertisers to supply shorter content.
Why we are using GeoIP
In order to ensure that people in the UK do not see advertising, we have to use GeoIP. Without it, we don't know where ads should be visible and where they shouldn't. The same applies to video and other rights-restricted content.
Generally, GeoIP is a reliable way of determining a user's country, but there are occasions where it doesn't work properly and these we have to address, case by case, with our GeoIP provider. Our interpretation of GeoIP errs on the side of caution to avoid showing ads to UK audiences.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.