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Thursday, January 10, 2008

John Birt, 10 years of BBC online and the modular homepage

John Birt talks to iPM about the beginnings of the BBC's website 10 years ago. He talks about going on a study tour and meeting dotcom evangelists in the US when 'the scales fell from my eyes' . He came back to the BBC to proselytise only to be met with blank faces and a fair amount of resistance. (Sounds familiar). It's a good interview in which he talks about being proud of the site's achievements over the years. Quite right too.

The BBC website, always a pioneer, remains so and still sets trends and standards that others worldover follow. Yes, that is in large part due to the fact that it's long had a giant staff and buckets of public money to play with. A good number of those staff, mind you, will soon be gone as the latest round of redundancies kick in - necessitated by another major cultural and structural shift, this time to accommodate the demands of convergence.

In addition to the interview, the post talks about the BBC's new modular homepage which launched late last year in beta. It looks extremely promising although I've found it a bit clunky and UK-centric so far and have temporarily abandoned it. I will go back to it, though.

The BBC says: "The new page is made up of customisable and moveable widgets that allow users to determine the layout of the page and give them a greater level of control over what information they want to see.

"As well as the tailoring the page to their own requirements users can, for the first time, listen live to BBC radio directly from the homepage and browse the evening’s BBC tv schedules."
There's been huge chatter about the site, a disproportionate amount of which is in appreciation of the analog clockface adorning the top right corner. Mind you, to be fair, it is fantastic. Most of the chatter, as far as I can tell, has been favourable and rightly so: the BBC is leading the way on this aspect of personalisation.

Personalisation has been talked about a lot in media companies in recent years. It's been applied here and there to email services and the like, and some sites have launched user-centric areas with some degree of personalisation, such as the Telegraph's user-blogging site My Telegraph.

But this is the first I've seen of an interface where the user can experience the whole website from their own personalised homepage. Are there more out there?