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Your worries are over - Here comes the BBC
The BBC feels that UK web users are being ill-served by their search engine

 10:05 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

BBCi’s head of new applications Tom Loosemore, says this initiative is part of the corporation’s remit to provide the best possible online service to UK users. He maintains that search facilities have been polluted by paid-for-performance operators such as.......the BBC is going to move beyond its current role as a news and programming resource to become the UK’s gateway to the web.

Revolution [uk.revolutionmagazine.com]

Heads up, get ready there may be a new game in town.


brotherhood of LAN

 10:12 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

I imagine there will be the usual UK grunts about the tax payers money being used to fund it


 10:20 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

>usual UK grunts about the tax payers money being used to fund it

What better way is there to use it, we may have the beginnings of an "independent, non-profit, public service" way to access information on the www.

Is that a bad thing?


 10:29 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

Sounds good to me and they have the publicity machine to make it important in the UK, this could be very big.


 10:29 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

>bad thing

Not at all. I keep expecting some large business to do the same here in the US, sort of like the old days when Digital ran AV mostly to show off its new chip. Think what IBM, or the BBC, could do for their brand by underwriting "free" search. It's expensive, but so are TV and print ads that have audience reach.

brotherhood of LAN

 11:12 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

I cant see it as a bad thing but im sure there will be elements of scepticism from non-web areas like the UK media, who see "auntie beeb" however they see fit ;)


 11:23 pm on Mar 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

The BBC dabbled with its directory of selected sites on the Internet, so, it would be nice to see the BBC produce something to find a UK resource.

The BBC has a good reputation, here and overseas, however, my fear would be that it is spreading its funding too thinly.


 12:23 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I don't see how the Beeb is going to compete openly with giants like MSN, Yahoo, Google and the like.

It is not that big an organisation in the overall scheme of things and actually has a fairly narrow interest.

Secondly I can't see why it wants to move into the search market.

It doesn't have the broadbase of potential Joe Public users like the ISPs - it is very unlikely to get a rep like Googles

My judgement is 'very ill-conceived' and will wait until proved wrong before taking them seriously as a search vehicle.


 12:45 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

There are many approaches the BBC could take. Why reinvent the wheel? If they became a Google partner and used their search database (less paid ads) ... it could work very nicely. I like the idea of the BBC getting involved in search and it would be quite a coup for Google or any other engine capable of supplying "pure search" results to be associated with the BBC.


 2:26 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

well i had my first hit yesterday from the BBC web search so i went and checked it out ... entering something in the search box opens a page where you select results from the BBC, from the WWW and a couple of other options. choosing WWW gave me google UK results by default.

with loads of engines moving to paid spidering and PPC, searchers don't always get the most suitable results for their search enquiries. the BBC is a broadcaster and is in a position to heavily promote it's own search service very easily. tied in with google UK results, it is in a potentially very strong position to provide relevant search results to UK internet users.

ok, so good ethical stance which will benefit uk users. but what does the BBC stand to gain?

the BBC is funded by licence payers and from sales of TV programs etc to other companies worldwide. i suppose they could carry adverts (banners) for their own programs which may raise viewing figures and in turn generate more sales to other countries ....? it could also be in preparation for privatisation of the BBC - there is money to be made from providing a search service, especially if they can take large numbers of surfers away from other search engines in the meantime - i believe they have the power to do this .....


 4:11 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Is that a bad thing?

I think it is a radical concept. Like PBS (public broadcast system paid in part by the US Govt) public service web is an idea who's time has come. I love Loosemore's reasoning on it too.


 6:09 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Finding information on the Web is far too important and critical for business, education, research, foreign relations, intercultural understanding, and communication to be left to (the mainly Western and developed country based) private enterprise sector.

We need both of course. Public funded and private funded search. There are great advantages and disadvantages of both, which are so obvious and wide-ranging that it is inappropriate to go into them here. The BBC is a good example of a publicly funded organization that has built a reputation for quality and in almost all cases objective reporting of information. There should be far more public funded initiatives (especially in the US) to do similar and provide some competition (ironically) to private enterprise ventures. I for one, would be happy to pay a few extra cents in tax weekly for a high quality, non-commercially orientated search service, for that really, is all it would cost....

Private enterprise, is by nature, selfish and must further their own ends and those of their shareholders. That's not being critical. That's how capitalism works. As in any country, the balance is the key.

Public enterprises traditionally become lazy or inefficient. See the UK medical service for example or public enterprises before Thatcher's privatization). But that is because they had no competition - they were monopolies. BUT publically funded enterprises competing directly with private enterprise are usually just as efficient, higher quality and fairer. The BBC news service in UK and the ABC in Australia are just two indicative cases.

Let the competition commence!


 7:40 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I wonder if there will be any content restrictions as the BBC are such a respected organisation?


 8:12 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

>I wonder if there will be any content restrictions as the BBC are such a respected organisation?<

I sure hope so!


 9:45 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great find NFFC.

I think this is actually very big news, and very good news.

At the very least it is a powerful shot across the bows of other SEs, many of whom are taking their eye off their service and corrupting their returns. It's almost like saying - "watch it you guys, because look what COULD happen if your results continue to evolve into Yellow Pages".

Like Brett I think there is a big future for public service web and I think that public service SEs will be at the core of it. Almost like the old days!

I can't see a major flip side to it - it's a public service and the BBC are funded to provide apublic service. I'll be watching this one closely.


 9:56 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think it's a bloody brilliant idea! Finally we'll have a real search facility!!!


 11:39 am on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

having just (grudgingly) sent them £109 for my licence fee.. i don't think it's a good idea. The principle’s good but I don't fancy having to pay for it and I guess non-web users are probably even less happy than me about paying for it than me!


 12:08 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Yet again the BBC arrogantly bulldozers it's way into yet another online business area. Leveraging it's massive user base (broadcasting to all homes in the UK) and its public funding to stifle competition.

The same has happened in online learning in the UK, shopping with the beeb.com and more. Even more disgusting is the way the BBC promotes its online ventures on the BBC's channels.

Admittedly the BBC often produces these ventures better than the competition - and so they should they have massive funding. But the question is "do they have the right to do this?"

My opinion is that if the BBC were privately funded then yes. It's just the same as any other distastful corporate giant using it's near monopoly to destroy competition - alla microsoft and friends.

Ok - they haven't hurt any business I'm involved in but that could so easily change. How would any of you guys feel if the beeb suddenly announced that it was to move into your business area? ... as a public service offering. Why should we be paying £109 a year (mandatory if you own so much as a dvd player) - to have your livelihood destroyed?

The BBC make good TV and should stick to that. If they want to have the freedoms of a proper business - then the licence fee needs to be scrapped - and back paid from the moment they started to misuse their position.

End Of Rant .... so far I'm the odd one out ... and I know it's probably a good search engine - might even get some hits from it ;)


 12:49 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Interesting viewpoint Gethan, but TOTALLY at odds with mine for a whole stack of reasons.

Amongst them:

a) The web is media, as is TV... so it is not exactly moving into a radical new area.

b) If search engines are no longer providing a public service, then it is perfectly right and proper that a public organ does it for them.

Surely it is not in doubt that the vast majority of engines are NOT driven primarily on the quality of returns... they are driven by profit and generally are very happy to reduce the quality of their returns to this end (with a few honorable exceptions). Look at the spread of Goverture as a prime example!

If commerce cannot deliver fair unbiased returns, then the Beeb has every right to do so, as a public service.

The main impact of this may actually be somewhat indirect... putting pressure on other engines to keep their returns clean and less commercial. Now that really would be a result.

As far as I am concerned, also as a licence payer, well done BBC. Go for it!


 1:09 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think the point is that as UK residents we pay a (extortionate) licence fee for our TV (makes no difference if we don't even watch the BBC channels) which is overly high for the services we receive.

Problem I have (with the new site and to some extent with the existing one)is that a large percentage of people using the service (international visitors and those who don't own TVs) will pay nothing but get the same service as us but we'll be paying well over £100 PA for it. Also there has been no consultation with anyone about this.

I'd expect that a lot of people here (being internet professionals) would be for it but would the general public feel the need for better search engines? and would they be willing to pay for it? Would they rather the money was spent on more interesting programming?

On the other hand my view may be tainted by the fact that I have literally *just* written the cheque out for my licence to avoid having to pay a fine of £1000!


 1:15 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

The cost of a TV license in the UK is £109 for colour (less for black and white). That is £2/week for each household in the UK that has a TV.

I am not as sure about the impartiality of the BBC as some of you are.

I wait to see what will happen here.


 1:29 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

the BBC has long been concerned over the future of broadcasting compared with narrowcasting...I suspect they are aiming to base a large amount of their activity on the web site in the long term


 3:17 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

>there will be any content restrictions

This search may produce results which could be considered offensive. If you wish to continue with this search you could try another web search engine

Pure class, imho.


 4:25 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

NFFC...I take it you were searching for "channel 5"?


 4:27 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

very funny Eric! A great chuckle for the evening...


 4:39 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think the U.S. should raise taxes and have a governmental Internet Service Provider too. Forty percent of my income to the government isn't enough, not while we are still suffering from bad SERPS. Evil western corporations have too much control of the Internet; and we need to get loving, honest, un-biased, non-greedy governmental bureaucrats to take control of things. Higher taxes mean less blinking ads. We already have non-commercial services that require a subscription from the people that actually use them, but I like the idea of everyone paying whether they even use a computer or not. Have a Federalized Organization of Socialist Search Engines and make spamming those engines illegal punishable by flogging.


 4:57 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)


the internet was at one stage WHOLLY funded by a US government agency - the NSF - National Science Foundation. The internet would not be where is now if not for that. And private enterprise wouldnt be making so much money out of it either.

Agreed that government funded internet facilities can sometimes be worse than private industry. Thats why I say we need both. Government agencies already provide much internet content and resources. World Bank, Development Banks, (paid for by taxpayers in the end) actual government department sites, all are paid for by the taxpayer. Many charity websites are funded in part by governments. Most of .edu and all of .gov I would say are paid by the taxpayer.

Then why not a search facility sans the advertising spins. Im sure is the US gov agency doing the US one bans sites, the UK would run it, or maybe the malaysian site. :-) Governments are competitors too!

We are talking the ability to find objective, useful information on perhaps the world's biggest information source. As i said at the start, that is too important for all, to be left soley to private enterprise.


 6:43 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm glad google is finding a market for search. Another feather in their cap.


 7:30 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Do you think it will become possible to submit your site directly to BBC search?

Personally I don't think so because they are going for relevency. But then again I don't know. The apple\uk.com example in the article seemed to indicate some kind of a stop gap method. I don't think they want to sift through the entire web to ensure relevant results.

Maybe they'll just ensure relevany for the big guys like Apple :)



 8:18 pm on Mar 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Chiyo - <rant>Because I just found out how much money I owe the I.R.S. and I'm very grumpy now. <whine>I literally have to cancel my dog's hip surgery because I owe every cent I've saved to the government.</whine> The thought of taxing a revamp Google doesn't sound appealing to me at all (I know it's not in the U.S., but I'm speaking in theory.)</rant>:)

P.S. I'm not against funding a new technology such as the old www project. But this BBC thing sounds a little too cavalier to me.

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