back to article Confused BBC tech chief: Only 600 Linux users visit our website

The BBC's technology boss Ashley Highfield has provoked consternation in the UK's open source community by claiming that only a few hundred of the corporation's 17.1 million website visitors use Linux. In an interview with web design mag .net, Highfield hit back against claims the BBC is too cosy with Microsoft. He said: "We …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just auntie...

    The Natwest stockbroking site, still has one of those moronic messages telling you that you should be using IE.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    old data

    Why is it that the larger an organisation you become (e.g. BBC, Government etc etc) the older the data used in your stats.

    2005? Because no-one has made the switch to linux in the last two years. Also it would be worth checking where they get these figures from, as it if is from the page after "you must use windows to access this site" then it is not really all that accurate anymore.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Dear Mr Highfield

    If the number of Linux users is so insignificant perhaps you really won't mind when they fail to pay their license fees, since it would be such a small number. Perhaps then it wouldn't affect the BBCs plans for future programming when they got in such a tiz over a shortfall of 4% of income. Clearly the license fees from 600 customers would be negligible. Thanks for taking this option

  4. Chris


    How do they identify all the geeks who use RSS to read the bbc news pages? Firefox by default in ubuntu has a bbc news feed.

  5. John Haxby

    How many Nokia n800 tablets?

    Amazing. And to think Nokia have only sold a handful of their linux-running Internet tablets. In fact, me and my two friends must be the only three.

    Either that or no one ever follows the link to the BBC news that the n800 ships with.

    Must be that then.

  6. Mark


    Linux still exists? Wow. Hang on - does anyone actually care?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Specific lie

    The figures Mr. Highfield has given are orders of magnitude out - I make it over 16000%!!

    That's not a mistake, that's a bare faced lie.

    Ashley - a piece of advise. Never, ever tell geeks a *specific* lie. You'll be rumbled.

    Bland embellishment and monkey shaking is far more effective.

  8. Roger Kynaston

    I feel a bit special

    Fancy being one of only six or seven hundred in todays massive interweb.

    Do I need to get my coat?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    600 users, eh Mr Highfield?

    Come on, Mr H., who was ever going to believe your 600 users rubbish?

    If I was to assert that, worldwide, only 600 Plan9 users access the BBC website, that would seem more realistic. Even then, the actual figure is probably higher. So, next time the BBC trawl their webserver logs perhaps they should look for "mothra" in their user-agent strings and see what they get.

    Oh, and they can get on with the Plan9 port of iPlayer while they're at it.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Linux / Open Source

    I find it very annoying that Highfield and co have decided that the only people who want to run open source software are Linux users.

    I have to use XP because of work requirements but just because I do DOES NOT mean I want to install the latest DRM encrusted pile of shite that is Windows Media Player and install a bandwidth hogging P2P application that I have no proper control over.

    If he can't understand that then frankly he needs to resign and let someone who actually has a fucking clue take over

  11. Steven Hewittt

    Fine - use % instead

    No matter which way you look at it, it's still a truly pathetic figure.

  12. Sceptical Bastard

    Ignorant and arrogant? Or just over-promoted?

    Highfield's public pronouncements are both high-handed and, apparently, ill-informed.

    For someone in such a powerful IT-related position, he seems as woefully ignorant as he is arrogant. Either that or no-one's bothered to explain the term 'public service remit' to him

    The fact that his figures fluctuate wildly depending to whom he is talking and/or simply don't stack up is not the issue. The issue is access.

    The BBC runs the nation's largest website and it is paid for by us, the public. The Beeb has a duty to make the service universally accessible regardless of computer platform or operating system and most *emphatically* independent of proprietary software.

    (PS. I visit several times a day (Ubuntu 7.04, Firefox, Modify Headers add-on). Like many sensible (OK, paranoid) people I prefer to cloak the user-agent string in browser headers.)

  13. Dr Who

    24 in 10,000

    I'm very careful to create cross browser code as a matter of principle, but I do sometimes wonder why I bother.

    Our stats routinely show 0.24% of our site visitors are running Linux. Even with a spot of adjustment for people tweaking their user agent strings to circumvent the IE only fools, this is still insignificant.

    Surely you can't blame people who are running an online business (yes I know the beeb is publicly funded but I'm generalising here) for catering for the overwhelming majority. It's not their business to promote Linux. They will cater for the Linux desktop when it becomes significant - which we all hope will be soon.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    et tu iMacs?

    What about all the Mac users? Surely they account for a good 5 to 10% these days?

  15. Steve Browne

    It isnt about Linux

    It is about a publicly funded organisation denying part of the population from whom, they extort money with threats and menaces, access to content for which they have paid.

  16. Alex King

    No, hang on a second.

    Whether it's 600 or 97,600 it's a tiny proportion of the overall customer base of the website. Of these not everyone will want to access the iPlayer, and of those that do not all of them will even be eligible to due to being based outside the UK.

    So here's my point of view - if you choose to be in a tiny minority, don't expect to be catered for at the expense of the mainstream. I strongly object to the prospect of so much licence fee being paid to develop this application for such a tiny minority of people as use Linux, when it should be being spent on other things slightly more relevant to the purpose of the BBC (that C stands for Corporation by the way, not Collective) like making good programmes.

    Nobody had this service a few months ago. If you're desperate to get the content, buy a telly and VCR/PVR/DVD recorder and quit moaning. Grrr.

  17. Paul Stimpson

    Or is that...

    Could it be that the BBC stats system only counts users that accept cookies? All the Linux browsers I use make cookie control very easy and most of the Linux users I know are quite aggressive with their cookie refusal.

    Just a thought...

  18. Secret Santa
    Thumb Down

    Just to clarify.....

    These will be the stats produced by the BBC servers....which run on (insert operating system you think most likely).

    I wonder if this chap could perhaps answer this question.....

    How many of your recorded visitors come up as OS or Browser not identified?

    Lastly could you perhaps tell us if you have a silent 'dio' in your title?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    El Reg over/under bet challenge!!!

    I love it when supposedly professional managers come out with stats that are patently wrong and happens far too often.

    So my suggestion is that we establish the El Reg Over/Under Bet Fund.

    An over/under bet is one where person A makes statement that "600 gerbils will come out of that hole in the next hour". As you know (and everyone else knows) that all the gerbils have been eaten by Pikey the Python you want to bet the under...i.e. "I bet it'll be less then 600 and I'll bet 500 squideroos on it".

    The level of your confidence (and vastly increasing the shame of the original statement) means you can offer levels, so the bet above could become "600 pffaff, I bet it'll be less then 200 and i'll bet 500 squideroos on it". If the original statement maker isn't willing to take the bet then that's how confident they are of their numbers.

    In the example above for 600 Linux users visiting the BBC site I'd happily take the over by a factor of 100 for 10,000 my bet would be that at least 60,000 are visiting and I'll put 10,000 quid on it.

    Anyone else willing to contribute the to ElReg smoking out the bull**it over/under bet fund? I'm in for 50 quid!!

  20. Gerrit Tijhof


    Netcraft confirms:

    Their servers mostly run *nix... But what it has to do with the price of fish, I dunno.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Innumerate, incompetent or just plain old corrupt

    How can anyone in charge of a major BBC department be that innumerate and/or incompetent? If Ashley is thinking of leaving in embarassment (and if he's not he should be), please could he take his posse of senior ex-Microsoft chums with him.

  22. Cris Page

    Core business.

    Simple answer. Kill the iplayer project and put the money into decent programming for those of us who are forced to pay the tv tax. With sky + dvd r and vhs available for recording I really cant see why they are wasting so much of our extorted money on this while cutting back on the production of broadcast content that is the core business.

    If this streaming service is so important let them develop a seperate business funded by subscription so people can vote with thier own wallets.

  23. paul clarke

    Well I for one...

    ... would like to meet the other 599 people who like me have visited the BBC using Linux. It is my first port of call when demonstrating Linux to potential customers. So That must be at least 30 visits a week using various distros.

    Oh and by the way - I also have a Windows XP box that is not supported by the BBC Media Player. Its Windows XP Pro 64bit.

    Wonder how many of the tech team creating the iplayer or what ever they want to call it are under 30?

    By the way, where is the Hilton angle for this story?

  24. neil
    Thumb Down


    Noted a wee poll on the BBC technology page about Leopard, and will you be changing. One of the options was 'No I use Linux' It had, when I looked, about 15% clicking that option.

    I note the poll is no more.

  25. yeah, right.

    Lies and stats

    So let's see. They launch with great fanfare saying "we only support MS Windows products, if you use anything else just fuck off". Then they wonder why people using something other than Windows might not even try. Then they use 2005 data (2 years out of date) to support their decision. Then they fail to take into account that many web browsers lie about what they really are because website developers are too stupid and lazy to code for anything other than I.E. To top it of, they then lie about the numbers that they cooked in the first place.


    Sounds like a government department to me! This is the agency the British expect to provide useful, accurate news? Because their PR on this sounds more like a Sun article written by a News Of The World author. Or a really really drunk Vulture writer...

  26. Cris Page

    Core business.

    Simple answer. Kill the iplayer project and put the money into decent programming for those of us who are forced to pay the tv tax. With sky + dvd r and vhs available for recording I really cant see why they are wasting so much of our extorted money on this while cutting back on the production of broadcast content that is the core business.

    If this streaming service is so important let them develop a seperate business funded by subscription so people can vote with thier own wallets.

  27. Neil
    Dead Vulture

    Re: How many Nokia n800 tablets?

    According to the following article, Nokia have sold over 300,000 of their 770 and N800 Linux based Internet Tablets, both of which come with links to BBC News and Sport in the web browser and RSS News Reader. There's no other evidence to back up this figure, but assuming it's true it really does make the figure of 600 look even more ridiculous than it already appeared...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phone ins

    The culture at the BBC is becoming more and more obvious. What happened to public service?

  29. John Ridley

    Maybe because the site is braindead under linux?

    A friend and I have both tried to view video on the BBC website using Firefox under Ubuntu. No luck, just doesn't work. The same browser will display video anywhere else.

  30. Ross


    I thought it said "Mark Taylor, president of Linux lobby the Open Source Consortium (OSC), scoured porn", but then I realised my error (and stopped reading)

  31. Anonymous Coward

    So which OS do the BBC Internet servers run then?

    >> These will be the stats produced by the BBC servers....which run on (insert operating system you think most likely).

    Let's find out shall we? Simply by sending a bad HTTP request to on 80 and see what you get back. Oh no! The BBC are so in league with M$ they are using Apache/2.0.54 (UNIX) servers -

    HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request

    Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2007 19:57:16 GMT

    Server: Apache/2.0.54 (Unix)

    Content-Length: 226

    Connection: close

    Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

    You sandal wearing "I want something for nothing" freaks are never happy - get a life.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the point is ...

    that surely they should be developing their site and products using open and unencumbered technology, not forcing people to use microsoft or miss out. Under open standards, the products they produce would be suitable for ALL, so this argument would be moot. I am not asking them to "cater" to my needs as a linux user, I am asking them to recognise that to force everyone to line up under a MS flag is not good for business, especially as they are funded by public (read MY) money.

    Do it right or don't bother.

    Christ, go back a few years and the bbc didn't even have a bloody website, I think I built one before they did ! Yet here I am using linux and have been for years, while they are stuck in the 90's.

  33. Leo Maxwell
    Thumb Down

    the old runaround

    As for the idiot who said "Linux, is that still around?" the noises coming from the M$ camp say it all, they are very worried about Linux.

    You almost certainly use it every day without even knowing, in your router, your PVR, your HTPC, your MP3 player, Net or DAB radio, DVD player, every time you Google, or browse Amazon. (or even browse the BBC website)

    But back to the topic:

    If you have a site that only works properly for one Browser, which is deliberately non standard(I.E), and put up signs saying "only for users of I.e.v6" the visits by users of alternative, standard compliant browsers will slowly decrease, because after trying and failing, they don't come back, or if they do, they hide their identity.

    Most sites I visit work well with FF on Linux or windows.

    If they don't, I don't go back, ever, I have dumped one credit card company and several component suppliers because I couldn't access their site without IE6, and I just don't feel safe with it.

    "Cross platform" is simple, test for IE last, not first, don't write it for IE, write it properly. (Or that is what my son-in-law the full-time web programmer told me)

    The fact is that exclusion increases exclusivity, reduces diversity, and damages competition.

    I participate in several software forums, and have seen Vista and IE7 contribute to a sudden swelling of interest in Linux and FF.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Political correctness gone mad

    I never thought PC would find its way into IT, but now you can't even say that Linux users are a tiny minority bunch of sad geeks without getting flamed to a cinder.

  35. Anigel

    Public services starts adn ends at getting your license fee

    to Anonymous Coward

    They only care about public service when it comes to getting your license fee.

    Beyond that point the beeep sorry beeb is nothing but a public disservice and joke.

    Nowhere else in this country would a monopoly where you have to pay one company to use anothers' services be allowed to exist.

    Heck just look at BT they insisted that BT allow other peoples equipment in thier exchanges aka LLU to prevent exactly this type of monopoly.

    Now I still cant watch decent programming on discovery without having to pay the beepers to produce faked up public rip off phone ins and voting trash.

  36. M. Poolman

    @Gerrit Tijhof

    If you refine the search to "" (note leading period) you find that just one of the ~120 servers run a windows variant ( which redirects to to a page starting:

    Server Error in '/' Application...

    This begs so many questions that I really don't know where to start.

    (PS @ el Reg. icons/emoticons suck - drop 'em)

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Peter Darby

    Err, actually...

    >>You sandal wearing "I want something for nothing" freaks are never happy - get a life.

    Something for nothing? And the license fee is... nothing then? Do non-ms users get a rebate on their license fee? Where do I apply?

    A service has been promised as available to all license payers, regardless of OS. If the BBC started putting out digital channels that would only decode on the most popular set top box, there'd be an outcry.

    Anyway, the story is "Microsoft loving BBC exec loves Microsoft". Raise one eyebrow, and head for the torrents...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't bother knocking around the BBC site because they don't support my platform. It isn't a boycott or anything but I just opt to peruse more easily accessed sites. Of course, being a US-ian (US-ish, US-ese, US-whatever) I don't pay the BBC just NPR and PBS. On the other hand, BBC probably has more than 24 minutes of decent programming annually.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err, actually...

    "Something for nothing? And the license fee is... nothing then? Do non-ms users get a rebate on their license fee? Where do I apply?"

    Nope. Just as people who don't live in Scotland don't get a rebate on those programmes made there. Or people who don't live in Wales don't get a rebate on those programmes shown there. There is *nowhere* in the UK that can get 100% of the BBC's services. And there never, ever has been. Ever.

    Typical that El Reg and the Linux fanboys jump on an irrelevant figure and ignore all actual *news* in these interviews - such as the explanation of the very valid rights issues from the podcast interview, or the announcement the BBC will have a Mac download version of iPlayer in 2008 using Adobe AIR but just haven't announced it yet because they actually want to make sure it'll work first.

    Also incredible to have Mark Taylor commentating on this, given some of the absolutely staggering *bullshit* in interview on Groklaw. Why no story on that, eh?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    He's covering his ass.

    I don't much care whether they support anything, as I am not a BBC customer (license victim whatever), but don't the English care about being totally owned by an offshore company it seems unseemly thought you had more pride than that.Guess not oh well.

  42. Steve Lonie

    Will you BBC/MS bashers get a life

    In the end the priority for the BBC should be to support the dominant OS at the time they ** TRIAL ** the service they are offering. Their using MY licence fee to trial the service and i wouldn't expect them to spend £200k+ on developing a version for each other MINORITY OS in the world.

    Where do we stop? ZX81? FFS....

    For all you Mac/Linux/Unix/ - inserts OS users... I wouldnt mind that they would develop for that system and that it was all DRM free, but lets just find out if the "dreaded" WMP/WIN combination actually has a decent enough take up to merit investing in other OS's or even continuing with the whole scheme (which by the way they don't have to offer at all)....

    Stop whining!

  43. Scott Williams
    Thumb Up

    Write to us if you really want Linux support!

    I run web analytics for one of the larger government websites (c11 million visitors per year), I'm sorry to say our figures largely back the BBC's; looking at our figures for the current month 0.29% report as Linux 0.02% SunOS and 3.56% MacOS and 0.63% Other OS's (PSP's, Symbian, Wii, Unknown etc.) leaving 95.95% in the windows camp.

    The sad truth is we have more Windows 95 users than Linux users, in fact we have more Windows ME users than Linux ones; it's very hard to make a business case to management for anything that ignores 95.95% of your users - whatever the actual number of users in question is. It took three years to get the budget for a Mac, and a machines that run 95, 98, 2000 and ME to properly test on!

    The reality is that we respond better to emailed or written complaints about the web services than anything else (those stats get reported to government, platform usage stats don't. We also report on complaints resolved, and can apply for project grants to fix problems out of normal scope). But we receive more e-mails from grannies running 95 than disaffected Linux users; so get writing to us or get over it!

  44. Dom


    Consumers don't *choose* Windows, FFS. Consumers don't have a choice.

  45. Robin


    "User don't choose windows?" Do they not??? I use Windows every day BY CHOICE. I am perfectly capable of getting Linux on my PC or using a Mac, but I've not seen anything there that is SO much better that it's worth changing to. No one is forced to buy a PC with Windows on it. There are alternatives. The "They don't have a choice" argument is just completely bogus.

    As for the BBC. They should make their player available to all. But I am getting quite alarmed at how much of the licence fee is being spent on "IT". The BBC should be about programming and news. Not building ground breaking IT apps.

  46. John Deeb
    Gates Horns

    Enablers of monopoly

    The % is not the issue.

    What if the government or local counsel would start publishing all their downloadable forms and documents in a leading propriety Word processor format for some imaginary security reason?

    And then justify it with a remark that 90% of people already own the product according ?

    Maybe the UN could start fining the Beeb too as "enabler" of an ongoing abuse of a "near monopoly".

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cause and effect

    Why would linux users frequent linux-unfriendly websites?

  48. Tom

    Self fulfilling management decisions....

    You get rid of all your useful programmers.

    You employ Microsoft to advise and code for you.

    Your site is designed effectively for IE despite a few nods to standards...

    When others catch up you 'upgrade' to a new realplayer standard..

    Then no-one else uses it.

    Better shut down a few nice telly programs and pay the execs a bit more for that stroke of genius. Until Microsoft ups the ante and you cant afford that either..

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My web logs and Linux

    from 7 to 11% of my site visitors have a hidden OS, Linux users account for a consistent 5.6%, with Mac users at a declining 4.2%. 86% have javascript disabled. My web site is not Linux specific but based upon local history and an ancient 1978 computer.

  50. Sceptical Bastard

    Get writing - put up or shut up

    Scott Williams is right on the money.

    Write (email or snail) to Ashley Highfield ( and make your views known in a well-reasoned and polite way with specific details - avoid hysterical fanboy ranting.

    If you are emailing, CC your complaint to as many *relevant* BBC personnel as you can identify by trawling the Beeb website and/or Google - the syntax is almost always firstname dot lastname at

  51. Anonymous Coward

    @Scott Williams

    Scott - the problem is that so many government websites have been written by companies/contractors/staff who are totally blind to the fact that there are other browsers/operating systems than Microsoft.. either because they don't know any better or they have been brainwashed by Microsoft into believing that Microsoft is the One True Way . When a site wont even render properly under FireFox on Windows XP what hope in hell is there that its going to work under Linux?.

    Cheltenham Council's Planning Department website doesn't work with FireFox on Windows or Linux - I asked them over 2 years ago when it would work with FireFox... I'm still waiting for it to be fixed.

    So don't blame the end users : Linux users are staying away from Government websites because the damn things don't work properly, and I know several who keep an old Windows box with IE on it purely so they can access some rather badly written websites.

  52. Giles Jones Gold badge

    BBC should use standards

    This is where their argument falls down, you pay a TV licence and you expect to be able to view the digital content. Freeview boxes aren't all made by one company, if they were there would be an monopoly investigation.

    So why can't a system be devised that works for all platforms?

    They beam the programming digitally around the country without DRM and at better quality (Freeview) yet on the web they add DRM and lower the quality?

  53. Charlie


    What surprises me isnt that the beeb got their stats wrong, but that their head of technology could actually give such a bewilderingly stupid figure to the public. If he doesn't realise that it's blatently wrong, how on earth did he get to be in that position?

  54. Richard Preston

    It's not about the browser, stupid

    Leaving aside the argument about whether or not a public service broadcaster should feel duty bound to support audience minorities, this argument is not really of the BBC's making. (Besides, the BBC Trust did wring a commitment from them to support non-MS versions of the iPlayer in the near future.)

    The content providers are the ones who are insisting on DRM for their stuff to be made available via download, and realistically MS DRM is the only economically feasible alternative at the moment. Evidence that the BBC is more open minded about this is that there's a huge amount of BBC (at least apparently official) content available on YouTube already.

    In fact, given the Open Source community's (of which I am one, and I and my sandals are proud of it) objection to DRM in principle, it's highly unlikely there will ever be a Linux version of iPlayer for anything other than BBC content. Until, that is, the content providers wake up to the fact that the digital media distribution genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and choosing MS DRM (or any other) will only ever be a temporary protective measure. Hopefully, they'll realise that making low-quality content available for download not only does not damage their business, but actually makes a hugely effective way of getting people to go out and buy the DVD to watch on their TV through the viral marketing it encourages.

    So, don't be too nasty to Ashley; his facts may be right or wrong, all he's really done is pick the wrong argument.

  55. Alex Tingle
    IT Angle

    My 2 pence...

    I run a fairly large site (50-100000 unique visitors per month) that is not connected to linux or geekery in any way. I see 2.7% of visitors using Linux.

  56. Peter

    Licence fee

    Licence fee non-payment should be officially stated to be defensible on grounds that the services are unavailable due to a decision of the BBC.

    I'd include those that pay the licence fee and don't have a computer too (though no doubt a lower number than the ~3-4% of linux users out there)

    If they want to avoid the cost of developing for ~5% of those that have no choice but to fund it, then they should gain the choice to avoid contributing to it. Anything else seems highly unethical.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not brainwashed...

    We contractors like to get experience in the most expensive software available, it keeps us earning good money.

    Millions and millions are pissed away all the time because the guys making the technical decisions want to play with the software that looks best on their CV

  58. Charles Manning

    Linux users: come out of the closet and be counted!

    All these people that use Firefox etc and ask it to lie and say they're using IE don't help matters at all. They just keep the Linux stats artificially low and help maintain the status quo.

    If only 3 people in UK claimed to be gay, how much time do you think they'd get in parlament etc? Using much of the logic expressed here the discussion would be: "Why are we wasting all this time talking about gay rights when there are only 3 in UK? Let's rather spend the time discussing stuff important to the 99.9997% straight folk out there'

    So, be proud to fly your Linux colours. If a site does not work (because it is not compliant).... complain to their webmaster. If is is a large public concern then bitch to their PR.

  59. Anonymous Coward

    @Charles Manning

    And FF users on Windows can always put the Linux user agent strings in - so sites will think they are a linux user.

    Which just goes to show how meaningless webstats like that are.

  60. Kwac
    Thumb Down

    Which sounds better?

    I had a look at the blog of the BBC's IT head, where he admits an error.

    Stating that the figure could be 36,000 - 97,000 he says that "in excess of 30,000 is not insubstantial".

    Almost as "insubstantial" as nearly 100,000, I wonder?

  61. Brett Brennan
    Flame works fine with Linux...

    I check news at every day - preferable to the American news sites like that relegate news to the small spaces between adverts. I use three SuSE 10.2 systems and Firefox and Opera 9. There is no problem with the main site, news, business, or even the video clips (I usually watch them in a separate window with Real Player). I have no desire to use iPlayer, even if it IS available for my distro.

    The real issue here is that choice of browser, far less choice of OS, shouldn't matter a dingo's kidney to anyone - either content provider or content viewer. There are well-defined standards for HTML that ALL browsers can display properly. And there are many "proprietary" standards for interactive or animated content that are handled equally well on ALL modern browsers and operating systems - Flash comes to mind instantly.

    The Beeb - and any other company that wants to have a web presence - should simply provide content in a standards-based format FIRST, avoiding any of this fanboi nonsense for a majority of their content. If there is something that is truly ONLY available reasonably in one form for one browser or OS (like MS DRM for securing 3rd. party content), then provide ONLY that content in a single, proprietary format.

    The above approach solves ALL the issues: (1) ALL browser or OS combination can view MOST of the content ALL the time, (2) most browsers or OS combinations can view the non-DRM active content most of the time, and (3) the majority of browsers (IE) can view the DRM content most of the time. It simplifies the writing of web content (write it once to standards and don't worry about having conditional code for different browser versions), reducing costs for the Beeb as well as every one else involved.

    Oh, wait...IE doesn't work with standards does it....

  62. paul clarke


    Perhaps the open source community should develop their own player? Then offer this to the BBC?

    If the player was initially open sourced code then we would not be having this problem now. But the problem is the BBC needing to protect the content using DRM. As most of you know DRM is a corporate issue not an end user issue. We simply want to view the content.

    One thing that does bother me, the BBC are publicly funded. Therefore they are answerable to the public. The public in this case want any player provided by the BBC to be cross platform. If this can actually be accomplished while ensuring that the DRM and IP is protected is irrelevant. The materiel has been produced in the first instance by public funds. To protect the content outside of the UK, simply invent a subscription mechanism. This could be in the form of a pay per view or an annual subscription. It could also be in the form of an AD supported iplayer available to non uk residents.

    But one thing is for sure, linux is here for the long run and more and more people are going to want the choice once support for XP is removed and Microsoft force vista onto users.

  63. Vulpes Vulpes

    100K Linux users. Out of millions. SO WHAT?

    So there might actually be 100K Linux users out there actively using the Beebs website. Fine.

    So they demand their share of development investment in the iPlayer. Fine.

    Let's (over)estimate that iPlayer accounts for 10% of the BBC's IT costs.

    Let's (over)estimate that IT costs account for 50% of the BBC's budget.

    So 5 per cent of the overall pot of dosh from licence fees gets spent on iPlayer.

    100 000 licence fees amounts to, say, £15 million.

    5% of that little lot gives us £750 000 to spend on an iPlayer download service especially for Linux users.

    The fact is, like it or not, in the big picture, the fraction of Linux user's licence fees that might go towards the iPlayer project doesn't amount to enough to justify the expenditure needed for the BBC to get a DRM solution working under Linux.

    Not only is this not about the Browser, it's not about the OS either; it's about rights and DRM.

    Smell the coffee.

  64. Magnum

    Did you know...

    There are more mac users in the UK than Welsh speakers.

    Put that in the DRM pipe and smoke it.

  65. Kieron McCann

    Back in your box

    Yeah yeah, Linux is the greatest, Linux will save the world, Linux is better than cheese and marmite sandwiches - er so why isn't everyone using it then? Sure you want to demo your geek credentials, but that's kind of like choosing to have size 22 feet - makes you stand out but not that easy to find a decent pair of shoes.

    Okay Linux guys, get back in your box, spark up another joint and get back to combing your armpit hair.

  66. Vulpes Vulpes

    LOL @ Magnum

    Er, forgive me for saying this, but as Dave Allen might have said, when you say

    "There are more mac users in the UK than Welsh speakers.

    Put that in the DRM pipe and smoke it.""

    it just sounds Irish to me.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Different Perspective

    Instead of arguing for the rights of the licence payers try looking at it from the point of view of a CE manufacturer. Imagine you are in the business of making consumer electronics products such as set top boxes. You should have the right to make a box that receives these signals but you can only do that by putting MS inside. Anyone who wants to can make a device (from scratch, including software) to receive the BBC channels because these use open standards (PAL or DVB-T). The manufacturer is happy because they aren't forced to use a particular supplier for part of the system and BBC is happy because they don't have to pay to port code to every new platform.

  68. Ben
    Thumb Down

    @Kieron McCann

    > Linux is the greatest [...] - er so why isn't everyone using it then?

    Here's but a few reasons:

    Nobody ever got fired for buying <del>IBM</del> Microsoft.

    Marketing expenditure. When was the last time you saw a *nix desktop advertisement on tv/paper/online?

    *nix cannot offer volume discounts. Windows can - as long as you sell as many copies as you sell PCs...

  69. Anonymous Coward

    Archive Trial

    I'm participating in the BBC Archive Trial. The initial version of the site required you to have a Media Player plugin, but about 10 days ago they announced a Flash player (in the style of YouTube). For the first time since the trial started I'm interested ;-)

    I'll leave my coat for the time being...

  70. Tom Peach

    @ El Reg

    What percentage of your visitors are running Linux?

    I understand many people will be reading it from work and so that might alter the figures in MS favour but it would be interesting to know what a semi-geeky site can expect...

  71. Anonymous Coward


    > When was the last time you saw a *nix desktop advertisement on tv/paper/online?

    Dell is selling Linux boxes *despite* the "incentives" (read: corporate bullying and financial disincentives to supply nothing but Windows)... that was a step change for the better.

    > *nix cannot offer volume discounts. Windows can - as long as you sell as many copies as you sell PCs...

    Volume discounts??? Errmmm.... 100% of nothing for Linux is still nothing (unless you are talking about a service support contract instead, maybe? So go figure the support cost of Windowes, yes...? Geez...)

  72. Chris
    Jobs Horns

    BBC Vote

    There was a vote on the BBC pages when OS X Leopard was released asking whether people would be upgrading to it or not. One of the options was 'No - I use Linux'. That option was consistently over 10% of the vote the two or three times I looked. The Mac vote totalled to about 35% and Windows was ~50%.

    Clearly the subject matter skewed the votes enormously, but 10% of (from memory) about 50k-60k total votes is much more than 600.

    I suggest the BBC actually look at the results of some of these polls they put up :-p

  73. Vulpes Vulpes

    Hey Ho, another anon yellowstreak gets the wrong end of the stix

    "100% of nothing for Linux is still nothing "

    Er, "next to nothing" for the initial software maybe....

    and yet....

    Drivers for all the printers we have lying around?

    Desktop support staff with remote access and suitable training?

    Integration with the rest of the business estate?

    SLAs with the OS provider for business critical fixes?

    All free, obviously, if you use Linux for the workstations.

    No reality check there then.

    Get a grip. Oh, and get a name.

  74. Mark Land

    server logs - lol

    As far as netcraft can make out, BBC web server logs are running mostly on Linux! with a handful of Solaris and BSD Unix thrown in. I'm guessing the BBC dude did not check his logs with vi?

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Copyright theft? Nonsense. Wave your passport and your license in their face - the British people own the BBC and all of its copyrights and pay for a huge proportion of these shows to be made."

    Not even remotely true I'm afraid. The BBC don't own the entire copyright for almost any programme they make (certainly well over 99.99% of them).

    One would note for a start that since almost every programme uses commercial music, the BPI alone can quite happily sue you for downloading a BBC programme just as easily as it can illegal mp3s. And I have no doubt they will....

  76. Simon Westerby

    Lies, damn lies and statistics...

    OK, lets be over estimate and say, combined linux/mac users contribute 10% of the BBCs' web traffic...

    Which leaves 90% on windows (95 - VISTA)

    I would like to know

    What % of those have been offered the iplayer trial ...

    What % offered it are actively using iplayer ...

    What % offered it tried using it and stopped ...

    They would be more interesting figures based on how much money the BBC seem to be "wasting" on this project...

    I really hope they get ot right in the end, but I for one won't be using it atm because of two things..

    1) Current BBC content is pants ...

    2) The technology the BBC chose was posibly the worse one the could've chosen ...

    For now I'll stick with endless repeats on "Dave" and the occasional new proggy on BBC 1/2/3 and my freeview box.

  77. Anonymous Coward

    @Vulpes Vulpes

    > No reality check there then.

    Last time I looked, there were free drivers for most popular printers... what are you paying for?

    Remote access? VNC for Linux, or secure tunnel and ssh...

    Integration? So Linux has to integrate with everything else, but everything else doesn't have to integrate with Linux? These would be parts of the "business estate" using proprietray closed protocols rather than open standards, would they?

    Support staff and training? All of which is free for Windows, huh? Errmmm... the comment actually said: "100% of nothing for Linux is still nothing (unless you are talking about a service support contract instead, maybe? So go figure the support cost of Windows, yes...?)"

    So, did you stop reading when you got to the big words, like "unless"?

    > Get a grip. Oh, and get a name.

    This grip.. would it be on reality? Like your world, in which MS software needs no training or support staff, and integrates with everything except Linux, whilst costing less...?

    Geez... I want an ounce of what he's smoking, please...

  78. Richard Hebert

    How about El Reg readers ?

    It would be interresting to know how much linux users are visiting El Reg


    What's the ratio of win / lin / mac /other that come visit these pages :)

  79. Anonymous Coward

    Point missed

    Most of you have missed the point. It is not really about enabling Linux, but to avoid a MS monopoly. OS X and Linux are the only real alternatives to Windows, so of course they are always quoted as the alternative, but both are marginalised because of market penetration

    The real fear within the BBC is that they must not aid copyright theft. Content providers are wanting assurances that the use of their copyright material is controlled. As software on Linux is mainly Open Source, any DRM system, either open or closed (and you CAN have closed source solutions on an open source platform), on Linux cannot be regarded as safe. You can interrupt or divert the media stream at the X or driver level, and gain full access to an unencrypted content.

    Windows and to some degree OS X can be regarded as safer because the OS supplier can code in upward and downward checks that all layers of the OS and hardware are content safe. With Linux, you just remove the code that do these checks and recompile the kernel and modules.

    The BBC can just piggy-back on the off-the-shelf Microsoft DRM, without any further expenditure, which will then also indemnify them from any litigation from content providers.

    I would be happy to use DRM encumbered media (within an acceptable fair-use policy) on Linux, so long as the DRM support is there. But it is not, and probably never will be. We desparately need a high-takeup commercial alternative OS to Windows to keep Microsoft and other media content handlers feet on the ground without the normal 'they're only geeks and not important, why won't they just use Windows" response to Linux.

    I declare myself to be a UNIX user of around 30 years and of Linux of about 10 years. I avoid Microsoft software out of principal wherever I can, but do still use it out of necessity. I do object to having to boot Windows to access online media (and not just the BBC - ITV, Sky and Virgin are all just as guilty).

  80. Paul Talbot
    Dead Vulture

    My thoughts

    Can't read all of the comments so sorry if I'm repeating. Anyway, here's my thoughts:

    I use Linux at home but have to use Windows at work. I currently only use the BBC site to read news during downtime at work, therefore the stats would read as 100% Windows. However, were I to be able to use the iPlayer, that would be accessed 100% via Linux as iPlayer content would be unsuitable for work, just as I currently have no need to access news from home.

    There's also the question of how accurate these stats can be to make future decisions. Many people are in the same position as me - forced to use MS in one location but choose another platform at home. Many people use open source but have browser ID set to lie about the OS being used. Then, there's all the 'unknown' entries that crop up in logs. Obviously, the results are skewed.

    Then, there's a question of existing functionality - if you have a choice and the current site content is broken in Firefox, OSX or Ubuntu, you're forced to use Windows/IE regardless of your preferred choice. Again, the results are meaningless if you're taking outdated information from a platform that's already skewed in MS's favour.

  81. Jess

    600 users?

    That is ridiculous.

    There are probably more than that who use with RISC OS, and linux is a tad more popular.

  82. Vulpes Vulpes

    That chickenshit Anon still doesn't have a name

    "100% of nothing for Linux is still nothing (unless you are talking about a service support contract instead, maybe?"

    Yes indeedy, as per my comment about service levels.

    So show me an SLA between a commercial business IT department and a provider of Linux. You know, one with stuff about turnaround times for bug fixes and security patches, the release schedule for OS versions for the next two years, the intended timeframe for the ongoing availability of support and so on. For that matter, show me the job adverts for administrative and clerical staff with Open Office skills. Show me the marketing department that doesn't run on Excel spreadsheets. Show me a presentation in a Motel conference room that isn't being done in Powerpoint.

    Like it or not, the reality is that for 90+% of people, "Windows" is pretty much synonymous with "computers", and they don't give a hoot about Linux, whose users remain commercially insignificant.

  83. Benedict


    Now dont get me wrong I like unix/linux/etc, but if these nerds really care about their BBC licence free this much they should not renew it, put on a hat and bugger off outside for a while.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux users NB

    Y'all can sign that petition sans Facebook group membership.

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