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Exciting times

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 13:45 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2007

You may have seen that the BBC News website is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It's been an amazing time of growth in the new medium of the internet, and I and my colleagues who have been working here count ourselves privileged to have experienced it at first hand.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteThere's also an irony in the timing of the anniversary, since you might also have seen reports that in the current reorganisation of the BBC, the department which has produced the news website - BBC News Interactive - will cease to exist.

That is true, but it's part of a much bigger story and one which is cause for optimism for those who have an affection for this website.

BBC News is to launch a new multimedia newsroom, which will provide news for television, radio and the web. So even though our department ceases to exist in its current form, so do the TV News and Radio News departments. In their place will be the multimedia newsroom, along with a newsgathering and a programmes department - both also multimedia in their focus. This is a big shift in the BBC's thinking, and reflects what is happening elsewhere in the industry. There are those who argue we should have done it already - and for the website there are clear benefits.

We recognise that there are risks, though. From my point of view, I am concerned that the editorial coherence of the news website should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency. To prevent this, I've identified a number of practical measures - staffing, meetings, training and editorial accountability, etc - which have been embraced as part of the reorganisation process.

It would be wrong to think we're being defensive here - in fact the reorganisation is a fantastic opportunity for the website to better reflect the best of what BBC News can offer. We know that more people are turning to the internet to find out the news, and we are as determined as ever to make sure that our website is the best place in the world for them to do so - for another 10 years and more.


  • 1.
  • At 02:11 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Steve, forgive me, but the jury is still out on these changes and I will reserve judgement for a year or so's time, when we will be able to form a circumspect judgement on whether this re-organisation has been a hindrance or a help.

  • 2.
  • At 02:28 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David M wrote:


Perhaps now, 10 years on, there could be recognition of the fact that the average user's monitor can cope with resolutions over 800x600.

The BBC is now supposed to be cutting waste. Why not start with the mass of white on my right?

Happy Birthday to the BBC News Website from one of its first users here in Miami Florida.

  • 4.
  • At 04:54 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Miland Joshi wrote:

Nice going, and good luck.

  • 5.
  • At 05:06 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Well you sound a bit defensive! I can only hope that you do not change the access around the world, and that there should be only one place to go for a full overview of the news - written, so that one can easily study it!

I hope you will keep these features - much more important than radio and TV..

  • 6.
  • At 05:06 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • angelica adams wrote:

I am very concerned that the BBC news will lose its integrity as it is downsized and so many losing their jobs To keep its integrity BBC news needs to be public not private and all of us around the world who benefit from BBC news could make contributions that way the burden of payment is not just on the Brits May the sun never set on the BBC

  • 7.
  • At 05:26 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Paul S. Carr III wrote:

Mr. Hermann--
I truly hope your transition to a multi-media website is a smooth one, and everything you all have envisioned. One caution (and I'm sure I'm not alone in expressing this)--please, please maintain your objectivity. Do not succumb to the pressures that have turned so many of the American new media into "fillers" between the advertisements. The news is the news, good or bad; please continue to report it as you have in the past--straight from the shoulder. Many of us here in America increasingly rely on BBC News to get a true sense of what goes on in the world. Unfortunately, we are not getting it from most of our own news media.
Terribly ironic, isn't it, when you think about it from a historical perspective.

  • 8.
  • At 06:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • lagatta à Montréal wrote:

Yes, I logged on early too. And start every day looking at your site.

Although higher-tech features could be incorporated, at the same time this site's international mission requires that its basic news content be accessible to users with older systems and limited internet access.

  • 9.
  • At 06:19 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Tenzin wrote:

I admit, BBC has been my first window to the world. This relationship is now 13 years old.
I am from India.
I was 14 when the romance started with BBC(radio)- Hindi Service which touched the northern himalayan region of Himachal, crackling in early morning when my father would tune into it.

Then India`s reform (started in 1991) came trickling down and BBC world service(free to air) that time trickled into the Black and White TV set in my home. And boy, was I fascinated looking at the outside world. It is amazing how I was shaped by it all. The exposure to the global world and the uncensored, frank opinions.
It has been a long walk down the road, after working for few years in Silicon Valley in India I am now doing my MBA. But the romance is still on.
Happy B`day and keep the great work going. Hope you guys emerge stronger after the re-organization.

  • 10.
  • At 06:32 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • André B. Sosa, MD wrote:

The BBC News website is quite simply the most trustworthy source of news online. It is a necessity, much like that first cup of coffee in the morning that gets you off on the right foot. And then, a quick glance in the evening before closing up shop helps to ensure that the world has not passed one by whilst trudging along with the daily demands of earning a living. Please keep up the good work. We need you.

David M obviously isn't technical. What about users on hand held devices, or users who don't want to use their whole screen for display. Plus, issues like the readability for type on lengthy lines, and the other designer based issues you need to adhere to.

  • 12.
  • At 06:59 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Iftekhar Shaikh wrote:

Congratulations on your 10th birthday. I'm an avid reader of BBC News online and have been an ardent fan of the web for a very long time. I've seen vast improvements on this website over the years and heartily approve of most of them, however, I do agree with David M about the white space on this page. This is inefficient use of space and is an area that should be addressed very soon. Good luck for the future.

  • 13.
  • At 07:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Derek N wrote:

As someone outside the UK, can I say that I think the BBC, and especially its news departments, are part of one of the greatest institutions on the planet. This website is one of, if not the best site on the entire web. It would be a tragedy if the cuts were to affect to it. I do hope the British public realise how good they have it with the BBC, and what an asset it is.

Happy Birthday BBC News Website, and looking forward to another great ten years.

The BBC opening itself up by way of blogging has been a real great dvelopment and allows a much better two way communication with its audience.

I noted a previous poster had crticised your use of design for smaller screen widths - this is still fairly standard practice for many site designs at the moment. Despite the fact that people have bigger monitors they may be viewing at a lower resolution or they may be using a reduuced window.

sounds good in theory. i am still worried that your advertisers will (human nature being what it is) find a way to influence content.

  • 16.
  • At 07:51 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Jay Broughton wrote:

I, like many others, have been concerned at the potential effect that the BBC's reorganisation may have on what is, in my opinion, one of the most professionally run and reliable web-based news resources in the world. Let's hope that the new department does indeed continue the high standards of accuracy and journalistic professionalism.

David M: Try reading the site on your PDA or in an internet cafe in a remote part of India or Africa as many people do. then you'll know why it's only 800 pixels wide ;-)

  • 17.
  • At 08:00 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Gordon M wrote:

David M - you took the words right out of my mouth!

Here's to another 10 years for the best news site on the web. Hope the budget cuts don't stifle you.

  • 18.
  • At 08:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • A Bartlett wrote:

Have thorughlly enjoyed 10 years of the BBC News Website and look forward to many more! As a History Teacher 'On this Day' is practically worth its weight in Gold! Well worth the licence fee. Finally, althugh I take 'David M's' point about the resolution my Grandmother rather appreciates the site in 800x600 - much easier on her eyes! A public service for ALL! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • 19.
  • At 08:12 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mark Flowers wrote:

Happy birthday from a loyal BBC website reader. Its a great site, my homepage and the one so many rely on for a (usually) balanced view!!

  • 20.
  • At 08:15 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Happy Birthday BBC News Online - For a long time the site has been considered one of the best news websites available - Not only for it's informative and concise journalism but also for it's to use layout and display.
I only hope that the current budget cuts will not stop the BBC News website from improving with international rivals such as CNN, Sky News and ABC Online lunching dramatically improve websites which in some areas really do show up BBC News - Such as video on demand (What is with still using Real Media... and so few videos on offer), glossy graphics and lots of photos/images. And I have to agree with David M - What is with all the wasted white space?

  • 21.
  • At 08:34 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • G Matthews wrote:

What I would like to see is a search facility which can display all pages from a particular day. (You could start updating On This Day again at the same time.) And when is there going to be a negative recommendation button on Have Your Say?

  • 22.
  • At 08:56 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

Congratulations to all! The site remains an excellent news & research source - and for many people, including myself, the very first place to get a news fix.. before television, radio or any other site.

Editorially you are consistent and raise the bar. The in-depth reports & features are much appreciated too.

But three technical improvements I hope will happen within the next ten years (or a lot sooner!)..

1) The ticker will update without needing to refresh the whole page

2) Rolling over front page images will bring them to life (ideally without sound) to show a short montage of images from the story where available.

3) Video reports will appear in situ when clicking on the story image rather than a small "video" icon launching a popup. Not to sound crass, but can't you partner up with YouTube to provide better quality video reports which don't require RealPlayer/WMP?!

Keep up the good work!


  • 23.
  • At 09:22 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • edgar veloz wrote:

happy birthday to the BBC news website and to all you peaple, i read my news every morning at you website, San Francisco CA, USA, Feliz Aniversario

  • 24.
  • At 09:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • M I Finch wrote:

Dear Sir,

I am an ex-pat, who relies on the BBC's website for informative news. Whilst the content is, in general, at the high level that one would expect from the BBC, subsequent to the tenure of the first editor, the standard of spelling, grammar and punctuation presented on the site has fallen to a state that can only be described as, "marginally above abysmal," (i.e., marginally above that of the Guardian in the 1980's).

This is a particular frustration, since our influence on our colleagues is founded, in large part, on our ability speak and write the language of high technology and business. Therefore, when we try to correct how one writes a particular phrase, the expression , "That's how I saw it on the BBC," is - to say the least - a let down.

I implore you, collectively, to understand that you are presenting both Britain and the English language to our friends abroad. Unless clear communication can be provided, the hope of understanding by foreign parties would be merely an indication of either luck or arrogance, neither of which represents an adequate service from an official projection of our nation.

I trust that the BBC and, in particularly, the Editor will, "Try harder in the future," while hoping that the aforementioned 'future' is not too distant.

Yours faithfully,

M I Finch.

  • 25.
  • At 09:45 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Justin Ciesielski wrote:

A viewer from the United States wishes the BBC News team all the best in the new organization! I've enjoyed the last several years of coverage and look forward to many more!

  • 26.
  • At 09:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rafael Rey de Castro wrote:

Many happy returns to BBC News Website. I have followed world news with you for ten years and I will continue to do so, as I trust the BBC will continue to represent the best possible source of UK and international news. I only have one request: please continue to represent British-European English in its oral and written forms, after all American English is already very well represented by CNN, Fox and many other respectable American websites.

  • 27.
  • At 10:28 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Phil Adams wrote:

As the saying goes, if it ain't broke...

Not the most incisive of comments I know, but please, this website is flawless already!

It is the first place I turn!

When I wake up, when I want to browse the news, when I want an in-depth take on a story: everything.

The site is full but not over-burdened, there is no fuss, it is ultra-efficient and something you all should be proud of!

Happy Birthday and many thanks!

It's amazing how much has changed in just 10 years. Will be interesting to see how much the BBC website changes over the next 10, would make an interesting article along the same idea as Tomorrows World.

  • 29.
  • At 11:00 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

The strangest thing about the BBC news site was how long it took to appear! Anyhow, great job folks.

Is there/should there be a blog that talks about BBC web design issues such as the 800x600 issue. It would be good to share your reasoning and thoughts on such issues.

  • 30.
  • At 11:15 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Karl Guildford wrote:

Hi Steve, I think the change that is ahead of you all will take the site to the next level. But bear in mind that not all the users are as tech aware as we would like to think they are. Happy birthday by the way - sorry could not make the party. Regards Karl.

Happy Birthday, BBC Website! (I was shocked to find out that one of my websites shares a birthday with yours!)

  • 32.
  • At 06:52 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Caroline Bentley wrote:

Happy Birthday and well done. This is a fantastic achievement.
I love the BBC website and believe it to be the best on the web. It has absolutely everything, is well organised and easy to navigate, hits the right tone between friendly/accessible and serious/correct. I do hope these cuts and reorganisations will not affect it too seriously. Keep up the good work!

  • 33.
  • At 07:05 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • pietr van gylswyk wrote:

If the history of the site and the development of it is anything to go by, I don't foresee any risk in the quality of the content being compromised. My hope is that it will be updated more frequently and be more dynamic. In my line of work it is the most important source for information and reference. Keep up the great work and don't drop the sights on the world hotspots and news. The small "unworthy" news item - the quirks of life lighten the otherwise seriousness of the site.
Keep it up and cast the net wider.
Good luck to all in the new changes and challenges you are facing with equal trepidation.
Bring back the clocks!

  • 34.
  • At 09:02 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Donald wrote:


Do not sum up global warming by using pictures of melting ice.

Get politicians to answer questions and point out to them when yhey don't.

In other words, do not make the news reporting so simple that all it acheives is to leave your viewers/readers with a whole pile of unanswered questions.

I'll second the previous poster when it comes to resolution.

The BBC's video player window size is quite small, its compression too high, seems to buffer for ages and all has to happen within a separate window via realplayer or windows media.

CNN video feels like watching hi-def in comparison, and happens all on the same page...

I hope this is the kind of thing a new multimedia newsroom will see as a 'fantstic opportunity', in light of all the recent cuts...

  • 36.
  • At 01:27 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Regarding Dave M's comment about changing screen size/resolution. Some people prefer the large screen display despite the advances in monitor technology. This especially applies to the sight-impaired etc.

Sounds like you need to open your eyes a bit yourself...

  • 37.
  • At 01:37 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Dave J wrote:

Congratulations on reaching ten years. The BBC News website is my primary source of news and I'd be lost without it.

I've got one small favour to ask, though: would it be possible to have a permanent link to Nick Assinder's excellent Commons Confidential column on the UK Politics page? Sometimes it's quite difficult to find it.

  • 38.
  • At 02:01 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • David M wrote:

About the resolution;

1. 'Bob' - In fact I am very technically minded, and consider myself computer-savvy enough to know that the current resolution/border of the BBC news site is ageing. More to the point, it need not be held back because of the perceived problems posed by recent developments on the mobile fronts.

2. If PDAs and mobile phones are the way forward, then either a dedicated mobile site for news, or adaptive standards, are the solution. Ultimately, those are not good reasons to hold back on the white space / resolution issue. They are a distraction.

3. Other major news sites handle the issue quite well: (An exception) (another exception, maybe because of the translation)

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

4. One point about people from across the world. I don't want to be blunt, but ultimately I pay for the BBC UK news content, along with everything else. The UK site should therefore reflect the majority of users' machines and capabilities in the UK. BBC can deal with worldwide issues.

5. Accessibility: I completely understand why lower resolution are used for some people, but a far easier means of dealing with this would be to allow for it in the accessibility measures that most sites use (bigger fonts, etc) that can be incorporated to be stylistically inclusive.

What I am saying is that it is missing the point to conclude that getting ride of the white space and moving on up to a centred or fully-sized site would compromise the site for some viewers.

  • 39.
  • At 02:20 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • David M wrote:

Additionally, the BBC must decide what it plans to do with the video/audio content on the site. I don't know how much traffic the various sections get, that would be interesting to know. The point is that I do not see how all that fits in with the mobile/PDA element. At the moment the availability and quality of net services make it somewhat problematic to use the content.

Maybe the iPhone will make it even more accessible on the 'Joe Consumer' front. But mobile access, which is probably the future, need not hold it back.

  • 40.
  • At 09:49 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • michael wrote:

Well done Stephen, keep up the good work!

The coverage of climate change continues to be excellent - not just melting ice! It offers a refreshing balance of the 'big stories', as well as the impacts, as felt by individuals and communities around the world...

As it's such a global and potentially devastating issue, could we have a permanent link to the climate change section (portal?) from the Science/Nature front page?

Happy Birthday BBC News! You've always been there over the years providing quality coverage of world and domestic events. Being an ex-pat (Sydney, Australia) I find the service you provide indispensable.

Interesting that you are moving to a multimedia newsroom. I'm hopeful this will enhance your proposition by providing news packages that combine the various media sources you have at your disposable.

My main criticism, at the moment, is the quality of the video feeds you provide. I find them little unreliable and low resolution.

Hopefully, this move will solve this.

Happy Birthday BBC News! You've always been there over the years providing quality coverage of world and domestic events. Being an ex-pat (Sydney, Australia) I find the service you provide indispensable.

Interesting that you are moving to a multimedia newsroom. I'm hopeful this will enhance your proposition by providing news packages that combine the various media sources you have at your disposable.

My main criticism, at the moment, is the quality of the video feeds you provide. I find them little unreliable and low resolution.

Hopefully, this move will solve this.

  • 43.
  • At 02:36 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Guy Fox wrote:

Testing! Testing! This is a test to see if the new changes to the BBC web site will make the post button work or even acknowledge a post.

  • 44.
  • At 10:48 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

I hope that you are able to manage the challenges posed by this and mantain what is fundamentally a good website. There could be advantages to the consumer. BBC TV news has come on leaps and bounds in terms of impartiality over the last year or so - largely eliminating bias by filtering, hidden editorial policies on mid-east or environment etc. It may well be that integration will expand this progress to the website.

  • 45.
  • At 01:04 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Russell Stout wrote:

Congratulations - trully an awsome effort over the last 10 years. When we look back at this period of time in 30 or 40 years, we'll see BBC news online (and other interactive services) in much the same way as as the BBCs influences of early radio and TV. Well done and thanks for the inspiration and information!

  • 46.
  • At 01:37 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Jack H wrote:

G Matthews at no. 21 - you want the news front page archive at

  • 47.
  • At 08:37 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Dennis Young wrote:

Congralutions for the 10th annivesary of the B.B.C. Website....

  • 48.
  • At 11:59 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • sunny wrote:

I completely understand why lower resolution are used for some people, but a far easier means of dealing with this would be to allow for it in the accessibility measures that most sites use (bigger fonts, etc) that can be incorporated to be stylistically inclusive.


  • 49.
  • At 06:19 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Aamira Rana wrote:

No doubt bbc is the best in its transmission all over the world. This was my child hood romance and now the good friend of my youth and will be the partner of my old age. This news service has laid the foundation of independent discussions on all issues and produced quality views for its viewers. I hope bbc will always try to present the excellent programmes for its fans. Keep it up and good luck in future

First, sincere thanks to all of you who sent us best birthday wishes. Your comments mean a lot to everyone here working on the site, so thanks for taking the time to post them. On to the specifics…

David M (and others debating why there’s still so much white space at the side of our pages): The historic reason for the current width of the site and why we stuck with it was to allow us to be as accessible to as many people as possible. But we know browser and monitor technology has advanced considerably over time and this is one of a number of issues we’ll be looking at as part of our next visual refresh of the site, with our design and tech teams. As for mobiles – we do have versions for PDA and WAP – here.

Sean, Paul – We’ll have systems in place to make sure advertisers on the international edition of our site can’t influence editorial content. I’ll post in more detail on this later in the week.

Chris, Andrew, James, Chris Khalil – re your comments on how we display video – you’ll see some changes here in the next few months as we shift away from our current approach, and you should find video becoming a lot more prominent on the site and easy to use.

G Matthews – two eminently sensible questions which I have referred to our development teams. Watch this space…

M I Finch – “subsequent to the tenure of the first editor, the standard of spelling, grammar and punctuation presented on the site has fallen” – Are you, by any chance, that first editor in disguise? We’ve got some excellent subs, and we take this very seriously, but when you’re publishing such a wide range of stories quickly 24 hours a day, some errors can slip through. I’ve never had a complaint from “our friends abroad” that they can’t understand what we are saying though.

Karl – good to hear from you – you are right that as far as technical/equipment capabilities go we can’t assume all users are at the same level.

Michael – hi – good suggestion about adding the climate change link to the Sci/Nat page. Will discuss with our science editor.

  • 51.
  • At 07:18 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • David M wrote:

Thanks for the response, I hope more and more posts are rewarded with replies when sensible questions are asked by readers.

It's encouraging to know that you and the team have our suggestions and queries already in mind, I think that it's important you keep up with the times regarding the technology and design around on the net. I'm also very keen for the video to increase in quality, the pop-up box would be much better replaced by a dedicated video frame, or use of standalone player with top notch videos.

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