The new BBC Homepage – a bit like myBBC then
The new BBC homepage is almost upon us then – the public can cast their gaze on the beta version right now.
Lots of people have blogged about it – with comments ranging from celebrating about the lack of the bbc.co.uk logo, and celebrating that lovely retro clock.
The one comment I’ve not seen in print, is something people have said a fair amount to me. “It’s a bit like myBBC isn’t it?”.
And yes. It is actually. Even down to the curved boxes and choice of content (although myBBC didn’t have a blogs panel!)
Of course myBBC was built and launched in 2000, when we had to support IE2, could only use web safe colours, and where I had to go to my boss to persuade him that to enable users to change background images and things, I simply had to use CSS to set the background and text colours – a practise which at the time was completely banned.
(if I remember correctly, the reason I had to do this was because you could change the background image and text colour for the whole page, but the panels themselves always had a fixed background colour – so News Headlines was a white panel. The background image was done in the
BODY tag using the
BACKGROUND attribute, whilst the panel background set on a
TD tag using the
BGCOLOR attribute, and the text colour then by a font tag. Following this? Good. Right. The problem? Some browsers we had to support (might have been IE2 or Netscape 2) didn’t support the
BGCOLOR attribute, but did allow you to set the text colour in font tags. So if the user selected a black background for the page, then any black text on the page would be invisible if the white for the panel wasn’t rendered. The solution I proposed – and used – was to use CSS for all text and backgrounds except the main one. Many recent developers are probably looking at that, completely stunned – to which I say, you don’t know coding pain until you’ve had to support Netscape and IE versions 2-4 all at the same time. Oh and Mosaic! Youngsters. Pah!)
We also had behind the scenes problems caused by lack of standards for sharing data between departments. RSS was a long way away from hitting the mainstream, and the BBC’s usage of XML was limited and certainly not standardised in any way. If a provider wanted to change their feed format (which they regularly did, for whatever reason), the entire service would break, and the Perl developers would have to start reworking their code. Indeed this lack of standard formats was one of the ultimate reasons why myBBC was closed in the end – it became too much of a maintenance overhead, and it was decided the money spent on it could be better used elsewhere.
The technology of the internet has changed a lot since then, and the problems that we encountered with myBBC mostly won’t be encountered by the team putting together the new BBC homepage – although I’m sure they’ve got a completely different set of problems to fight with!
Still, if the BBC management had really wanted to, they could have had much of what is about to launch, back in 2001. At the time we did a mock-up showing how myBBC could be integrated into the BBC homepage with relative ease. It may have taken 6 years for something similar to get launched, but hey, tge homepage got there in the end!