back to article BBC makes switch to AWS, serverless for new website architecture, observers grumble about the HTML

The BBC website, the sixth most popular in the UK, has mostly migrated from the broadcaster's bit barns to Amazon Web Services (AWS) with around half the site now rendered using AWS Lambda, a serverless platform. "Until recently much of the BBC website was written in PHP and hosted on two data centres near London," Matthew …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Does this change explain

    why half the news site pages use a sensible, clean, sans-serif font, while the others use an ugly, larger serif font in two shades of grey that make it difficult to tell whether one has viewed a page or not? There's been a definite feeling the last month or two of 'left hand doesn't know what right hand is doing'.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Does this change explain

      I wondered that. Was a bit strange having pages flipping from 'normal' font to large-print for no apparent reason. I guess once it's stabilised, it can be the first site i give a negative zoom override to.

    2. DrBobK

      Re: Does this change explain

      I think the new font is the BBC's very own new 'Reith' font. It was, at one point available to download in case you were going to create any content for the BBC. It is horrible. I can't understand why on earth they thought they needed their own font, let alone one as ugly as this. They were planning to move everything over to 'Reith' in the future.

      1. Jurassic Hermit

        Re: Does this change explain

        They created the Reith font because they currently pay significant royalties for using existing fonts.

        Whilst they paid handsomely for the creation of Reith, their ROI is I think 3-4 years, they save millions after that. I actually like the Reith font, they've done a good job imo.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Does this change explain

          It's not like there aren't dozens or hundreds of permissively-licensed excellent fonts out there.

          1. quartzz

            Re: Does this change explain

            it's the BBC. must use proprietary/unique(ly identifiable) format. can't use off-the-shelf

            (countries will talk)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Does this change explain

              Yup. Exactly how much did they waste on Dirac again?

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Does this change explain

                Waste? It turned into VC-2. That's still very much in use in the industry and has been for at least 10 years, though HT-J2K looks to be nudging ahead.

                1. Dave559 Silver badge

                  Re: Dirac

                  @TRT, sounds like there could be the makings of an interesting article about Dirac there?

                  I recall hearing about it as an experimental file format, back in the (not that long ago) days when the BBC had a broadcasting technology research department (I think it still does, but I have a feeling it is very much a shadow of its former self now?), but I have no idea how it turned out in the end.

                  1. TRT Silver badge

                    Re: Dirac

                    It can be used for files I suppose, but the primary rationale behind it was as a mezzanine encoding format for use in live production. You see it's all well and good compressing video, but if you have to make frame perfect cuts you need the codec to do its work in less than a frame. With HD looming on the horizon, the amount of video you can shove down a single connection quartered, and it would only get worse with 4K and 8K. Hence the need to develop a lightweight, fast, digital compressor. Back at its inception you had to run a CPU flat out in order to squish the data. Dirac could loss-lessly quarter the bandwidth with half the CPU power. I moved on from broadcast studio work quite a few years ago now, but oddly I'm still coming across the same challenges with the bandwidth required for video now I'm back in the biomedical science arena.

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Does this change explain

            Or even just let the person reading the content use the fonts that the person reading the content is using.

            1. Dave559 Silver badge

              Re: Does this change explain

              "Or even just let the person reading the content use the fonts that the person reading the content is using."

              Agreed. Browsers should make it much easier to let users apply their preferred styles to sites, if desired. Zoom settings (which the browser remembers for each site) for sites which inflict tiny text on you, and "reader view" are a good start, but they could and should do more (such as being able to menu-click on body text and choose your preferred body text font for that site).

              At least now that web fonts are a thing, it's so much rarer to encounter fugly non-outline Times- or Helvetica-like fonts when browsing on Linux, when clueless web designers have assumed that "everyone" has proper versions of those, and they didn't include decent common alternatives (such as DejaVu) in their CSS font list and also failed to include the generic "serif" and "sans-serif" fonts (which then use those set by the user's browser, so you should get a reasonable fall-back), and so you got presented with some fairly knarly "near match" fonts substituted instead.

          3. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

            Re: Does this change explain

            Have you ever met the crayon fairy department?

            I am not surprised.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Does this change explain

          The fonts installed on the client are free.

        3. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Does this change explain

          Well, Dalton Maag created it. They also revamped KCL's custom typefaces for the digital age. The original King's Logo from the 90's was created by Alan Kitching. Companies are ALWAYS knocking out new typefaces and updating branding and the like. We quickly get used to it. The Circling Hippos and the Teams Together and the Spinning Globes and the Sliding 2... never as good as what they had before, and this feeling will be repeated the next time. There are, however, a few genuine cases where the new isn't just a case of getting used to it but is an actual FUBAR of a job. King's recently attempted a rebrand at some expense and binned the whole deal because it stank. Rinse and repeat for Leeds, UCL, ICL, KCH etc etc.

          And the cost is quite high because of all the various languages that the BBC supports. The BBC needed a considerable rage of character sets.

          1. Dave559 Silver badge

            Re: Does this change explain

            "And the cost is quite high because of all the various languages that the BBC supports. The BBC needed a considerable rage of character sets."

            That's a good reminder that creating a font is a much more laborious work of art nowadays if you want to include proper matching glyphs for languages other than English, or even other Latin scripts.

            Possibly also an argument for using an existing font rather than commissioning a new one, but then, I suppose, every large organisation that commissions a font keeps a font designer in work (and maybe encourages them to release some other fonts under a permissive licence so that the rest of us can use and benefit from them). It's the arts being funding by patronage again, isn't it?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Does this change explain

              Good point. Indeed it is. And as a lover of the typographic art form, long may it continue!

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Does this change explain

        You can see the new format as the layout changes jumping between pages. The old site is responsive and you can read it easily, the new one has gone for the stupid obsession with "dynamic" bits that change causing content to bounce around.

        The "Have Your Say" has also migrated and is an abomination.

        Why there is this craze for trendy grey fonts in microscopic sizes I just don't know. There is all this bull about "accessibility" but it appears to have no actual meaning what so ever. Just like all the borderless windows in Windows 10. Who thought that shite up and?

        Far too much stuff appears to be designed by arty-farty types in the 20's who use 40" screens. Trendy appearance is increasingly more important than actually being able to use the sodding stuff.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: Does this change explain

          > The "Have Your Say" has also migrated and is an abomination.

          To be fair, content wise, it's been an abomination for years

        2. Dave559 Silver badge

          Re: borderless windows

          "Just like all the borderless windows in Windows 10. Who thought that shite up?"

          Yes! Don't start me on that!

          I had to use Windows for a prolonged period yesterday on a work craptop, and the craptop had very poor screen visibility and colour definition unless the viewing angle was just right, which made it almost impossible to tell where one window (overlapping, natch, because it had crap screen resolution too) ended and the next one started (and, yes, I was having to copy and paste text from one window into fields in another, because, yes, that's something you often do)…

          But Linux and MacOS are nearly as bad nowadays as well.

          I don't want a "special" accessibility mode (almost entirely all searing black on white, or vice versa, although Windows 10 out of the box is 90% of the way there already, and I find it hard to believe that such ultra exxxtreme contrast is actually very accessible?), but I would very much like to have window themes like we did in the 1990s and 2000s where each window had a maybe 2 - 4 pixel border, which was not only much easier for grabbing with the mouse to resize, but even highlighted itself on the active window, which was a real usability boost (of course, you really need an OS that supports 'focus follows mouse' to get the full benefit from that, and that's another story…)

        3. quartzz

          Re: Does this change explain

          " Far too much stuff appears to be designed by arty-farty types in the 20's who use 40" screens. "

          yup...

          which is weird, right? because don't most companies seem to think that everything is going mobile?

          everytime I use google maps, I know why no non-computer types over the age of 50 know how to use the web (controls and information windows only becoming visible when your mouse hovers over an icon, etc)

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Does this change explain

      I'm not even sure the right hand knows what the right hand's doing. It's quite common to see synopses of the same story several times on the same page, sometimes with different sizes of picture and quite often immediately following each other.

      It's a mess.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Server side rendering is as it should be

    The current trend of building the page with javascript in the browser is wrong. It just complicates things for the browser and means that the browser has to run javascript from all manner of places.

    Server side rendering means that for the browser it is KISS.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Server side rendering is as it should be

      I've heard it all now.

      Server Side Rendering sounds like a move towards the browser being nothing more than a remote viewing client for some sort of content displaying application running on someone else's server. If that's the way it's going, what the hell is the point of doing it in HTML / CSS / Javascript in the first place (other than legacy / internia)? You may just as well have a native application running on that server, stream something akin to a video of it to the client, and ditch the complex / expensive to render HTML / CSS / resource fetching stuff altogether to save a ton of cycles and network bandwidth.

      There's even a bunch of technologies out there that make this easy - RDP, VNC, Waylandpipe, even (if you squint a bit) X Protocol to name but a few.

      1. PerlyKing

        Re: remote viewing client

        I'd see this as more of a step back to the Good (?) Old Days of static, hand-coded HTML. The server served HTML to the browser, the browser rendered it and everything was good. None of this "you must enable JavaScript to load this page" nonsense.

        If all that the JS is doing is generating HTML, I'd much rather it did it somewhere else so that when I look at the page source I've got some chance of working out what's going on.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Server side rendering is as it should be

        Is that what it means? I thought it was a case of the client side just being told where to get additional content from. No Javascript required.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Server side rendering is as it should be

          Nah, it's just a reversal of trends, but with a new fancy name to justify the development cost

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Server side rendering is as it should be

            Ah! Same as Cloud-on-Prem and Dev-Ops then.

      3. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: Server side rendering is as it should be

        If you're wondering why not just stream video instead of sending some instructions for a client to render, you may be on the wrong website.

  3. Peter-Waterman1

    Lambda makes a lot of sense when you need to scale up and down quickly. We are talking milli-seconds. Try doing that on a VM.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Perhaps, but it's easy to imagine that the BBC's traffic is highly predictable. 0700-0900, 1200-1300, 1700-1900, 2100-2300 is my guess.

      It also ties them into AWS, so far as I can tell. Politically, helping enrich Amazon at license payer's expense without the option of upping sticks and moving elsewhere could be a bad idea. Especially if it turns out they've done it in a needlessly expensive way.

      1. Peter-Waterman1

        Yes, easy to imagine I am sure, but I guess the BBC would have done their research. It seems to me like they are not daft...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Is Poe's law at work here?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes, easy to imagine I am sure, but I guess the BBC would have done their research. It seems to me like they are not daft...

          If my experiences working for them are at all representative, then you're bang on the money when it comes to the people on the ground doing Actual Work[tm]. BBC damagement, on the other hand, is a very special class of stupid. As in utterly, mind-pummelingly, clueless.

          One of the things that irked me about the place was that there were a lot of extremely talented developers who were utterly hobbled by management practices that would have made Lord Reith wince - and there was someone who didn't suffer fools at all.

          My abiding impression is one of an extremely wasteful organisation that lost the plot a long time ago - a case of 'never meet your heroes' since I'd always wanted to work for the Beeb when I was a kid.

          The organisation as a whole lost its way a long time ago.

          This whole thing smacks of 'design by airline magazine' - in other words, someone drooling idiot in upper management read about The Cloud[tm] in a magazine on a flight back from their latest jolly, went to their underlings and said "make this happen. Or else"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Indeed. I recall my own experiences with the BBC. One was their reporting of a small disagreement that we were having with some headdress-wearing gentlemen in the Middle East, which involved a certain amount of lead flying in our general direction. They (the Beeb, not the enthusiastic owners of the AK74s) barely got the country right and every single other detail wrong. And this was in spite of their local correspondent being an incredibly capable bloke.

            Other contacts with the BBC were during my career in aviation. We had to stop talking to them because they were neither capable of understanding (shouldn't be that difficult to send a journo who knows what an aircraft is) nor in the least interested in listening.

            Free pro-tip: if you ever unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of a shower of bullets / shrapnel and would like to know what's going on, tune into the CNN (take cover first).

          2. KBeee Silver badge

            There used to be a saying along the lines of -

            "The BBC could run just as well with half the staff. But being the BBC they'd sack the wrong half"

          3. Dave559 Silver badge

            'design by airline magazine'

            You deserve an extra ${BEVERAGE} for that concept, made me laugh (and I can well believe it to be so true in so many cases)!

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Perhaps, but it's easy to imagine that the BBC's traffic is highly predictable. 0700-0900, 1200-1300, 1700-1900, 2100-2300 is my guess.

        Back in the day, it was one of those spikey traffic sites. So we'd have displays showing traffic utilisation on core links, and expensive ones like transatlantic capacity. So when we saw a spike in traffic, it was SOP to check the news to see if anything had happened. Major events can still do that.

        It also ties them into AWS, so far as I can tell. Politically, helping enrich Amazon at license payer's expense without the option of upping sticks and moving elsewhere could be a bad idea.

        Don't forget the many tentacles of the BBC. So there's the licence payer funded 'PSB' bit, and then all it's commercial stuff. With audiences shifting to streaming services, it may make sense to shift services onto an AWS/Prime-like platform than trying to keep it on cable networks, where carriage costs for 'channels' like BBC America might be high compared to number of viewers.

      3. Dave559 Silver badge

        "Perhaps, but it's easy to imagine that the BBC's traffic is highly predictable. 0700-0900, 1200-1300, 1700-1900, 2100-2300 is my guess."

        …multipled by those local times in various timezones around the world as well, of course!

        (Probably mainly also Europe, North America, possibly also Australia / New Zealand (and maybe South Africa?), but also all of the foreign language news services that the BBC has, and at least some people in other countries also seeking an additional (or more trusted(?)) news source?)

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    If performance is an issue React is your problem.

    The new pages seem to be mainly inline Javascript. Though they do render quickly, doing this on the server isn't the solution, doing less in Javascript is as a recent comparison. Also, ditch the inlining so that the browser can decide whether it wants to use cached versions.

    It's also difficult to see why, in a largely non-transactional site, you'd be wanting to get the extra CPU power on demand. Even with content updating reasonably frequently, you're still largely serving static content. But the move is presumably justified by being able to offload all the skilled and expensive people from the own data centre in the hope that Amazon won't ever want to take advantage of the situation to raise prices.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: If performance is an issue React is your problem.

      Just throwing a wild theory out there,

      With all content going online the BBC may just decide to reposition itself as one of the biggest independent content producers (including 3rd party commissions) and has near future plans for the full BBC content to be available via Amazon globally? That would bring the running cost down substantially.

      Like I said just a wild theory.

      1. 96percentchimp

        Re: If performance is an issue React is your problem.

        I'm not sure the BBC's charter would allow it do that, even if it wanted to. Then you have the (intentional) Balkanization of the BBC's divisions, most notably the commercial/public service content, JV's like BBC America, and the difficulty of securing global rights to content which is often produced by third parties for the BBC, with their own distribution deals for different territories/media.

        And even if the BBC managed to wrangle all of that into a global content platform, they've got existing commercial agreements with existing commercial platforms, they'd have to charge for content consumed outside the UK or by non Licence Fee-payers (but not all of it, e.g. news and radio), and be very careful not to rouse the ire of the commercial sector at home, which would immediately run bawling to its tame Conservative MPs and media barons to complain that "Auntie Beeb is being nasty again".

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    "Running a site the size of the BBC on Lambda is nothing short of an exuberant waste of a government-subsidized budget, it's absolutely crazy. Lambda VM time has a massive markup compared to regular compute...

    government-subsidized? Surely the bulk of the funding is the Licence Fee?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      In fact, the licence fee subsidises the government:

      Part of the fee also contributes towards Freeview and Freesat, and towards the UK broadband rollout, funding local TV channels and S4C, the Welsh language TV channel, as agreed with the government as part of the 2010 licence fee settlement.

      And the World Service. And now free licences for (some) elderly.

      Having said that, I'd be rather more impressed if their content management worked rather better so you didn't get glaring stupidities like articles about a photograph turning up on the Red Button service where you can't see the photo and articles that mention a place turning up in the regional news for that place even if the mention is irrelevant. Wrapping some HTML or MHEG around the content is rather less impressive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gubbermint funded

      To some, no make that a lot of people, the BBC is the propaganda arm of the UK Gubbermint and should be despised as much as the Bozo's in Westminster. It does not matter that this view is wrong. Apart from the World Service everythibng else comes from the license fee or selling programmes.

      1. TheProf

        Propaganda

        "propaganda arm of the UK " government.

        Yes, have a read of the comments on Daily Telegraph stories about the BBC. Fleck and spittle comes to mind.

        I sometimes wonder if they think the BBC's 'Woke, Left wing' staff eat babies for breakfast.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Megaphone

          BBC's 'Woke, Left wing' staff eat babies for breakfast!

          I have a quotable source (see comment above) so this is now a fact!

          Off to edit wikipedia now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gubbermint funded

        And just how is it a neutral organisation when the boss is appointed by politicians?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, that's worse than a mere subsidy. The license fee is a tax. Spin it however you want, it's a regressive tax that has to be paid if you want to watch any live broadcasts.

  6. this

    WebCore?

    Those little golden birdies....

    1. antman

      Re: WebCore?

      And the panataloon duck white goose neck quacked...

      (upvote for the Beefheart ref)

    2. joma0711

      Re: WebCore?

      Made me smile, played it again last night as a result of reading this :)

  7. Michael B.

    Is it just minified?

    I quick look at the home pages and the articles shows that the articles are very heavily minified whereas the "home pages" have very spacious easy to read HTML. The JavaScript doesn't seem to be the fault either as you can run the pages with JavaScript disabled and it looks broadly as it should do.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Almost every part has been rebuilt on the cloud

    "The BBC website, the sixth most popular in the UK, has mostly migrated from bit barns to Amazon Web Services (AWS) with around half the site now rendered on AWS Lambda, a serverless platform."

    And still the front page is not available over IPv6.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost every part has been rebuilt on the cloud

      It’ll be the Year Of The Linux Desktop before anyone starts taking IPv6 seriously.

      1. Calum Morrison

        Re: Almost every part has been rebuilt on the cloud

        Next year? I didn't realise it was so soon!

  9. davidcampari

    Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

    Screenscraping HTML is kludgy and not the BBC's issue that someone they don't formally integrate with gets "broken" when the BBC makes changes to their html ( as they are perfectly free to do at will ) Further, with prominence of things like SSR, webpacking, etc. the concept of "clean HTML" has to do with how correct, performant, etc. it is to the browser, not to external screenscrapers

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

      That was my thought: put up or shut up.

      If you can point to some content that violates the HTML grammar, fine. That's unclean.

      If you can't, it is clean and the actual problem is that you depend on something you don't control.

    2. skeptical i
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

      Agree that it's not BBC's job to ensure that news scrapers can continue unhindered. However, if the new HTML makes their job more complicated, do we know how well (or badly) it works with assistive browsers or programs, i.e., will vision-impaired people still be getting their browsers/computers to read news to them as well as before? One assumes this was considered and thoroughly field tested before deployment, but ....

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Accessible

        I googled it. https://www.google.com/search?q=bbc+aws+news+accessible

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/entries/8673fe2a-e876-45fc-9a5f-203c049c9f9c

        About a week ago - says "the BBC website now has better performance and accessibility than ever before".

        So there you are.

        Just below that is:

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39151932

        "Amazon typo knocked websites offline

        Published 3 March 2017"

        "Among those affected by the failure was - somewhat ironically - Down Detector, a service that tracks downtime at major websites.

        "Amazon, which is the world's largest provider of cloud services, says it is now making changes to help prevent a similar incident occurring in the future."

    3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

      I had a similar argument fairly recently with the developer of a well-known multimedia platform when one of the info scrapers broke.

      He was trying to tell people that it was the TVDB's fault, as they'd "changed" their API (again).

      Examination of the patch showed what the actual change was - one of the attributes in their JSON had changed position (because attributes were now alphabetical). Perfectly legal, and transparently handled by a JSON parser.

      Except, he was "parsing" the API responses with a regex, which of course broke when the attribute moved.

      There really is something about people writing scrapers where they feel the need to blame someone else for doing something that shouldn't break proper/standards-compliant implementations but breaks their kludge.

      1. davidcampari

        Re: Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

        exactly

        -- scraping has nothing to do w/ APIs

        -- i remember when xml first came out and encountered the same kind of silliness, use of regex to process xml instead of grok'ing the concept and knowing about parsers ( kinda like half these comments are commenting on the rendered "html" in the browser UI vs the scraping part )

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Quite a Misleading Title

      Hi -- no, the headline is quite correct. People have complained about the HTML. I don't think we, the Register, made any comment on it -- it's people hoping to parse the HTML who are upset.

      C.

    5. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh494

      Re: Quite a Misleading Title ( about the "unclean HTML" part )

      COULD NOT have said it better myself. "Easily scrapeable client-side code" is nobody's goal. We have APIs now for content we want to share freely.

  10. The Pi Man

    White space?

    The BBC website seems to be falling more and more into the “white space” black hole. More and more screen space to scroll through with less and less content.

    1. quartzz

      Re: White space?

      I can't read this comment without referencing the #dataminingclusterf**k that is instagram

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

    But, why?

    1. uncredited

      Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

      Because, you know, it's better, somehow!

      1. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh494

        Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

        Because it's newer and more fun to work on and looks better on everyone's resume! (Decisions ARE sometimes made this way, often consciously.). How else to explain the legacy Groovy code I had to tackle a few years ago.

    2. RudderLessIT

      Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

      My guess is that they want to outsource where they can/minimise server administration tasks. If you have an internal audit finding that says servers are not being managed efficiently and you are about to embark on upgrading a very high profile system (your websites), I can see why they wanted to not have to worry about patch Tuesday or the equivalent.

    3. SAdams

      Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

      They say they need to be able to scale quickly, which is not surprising given that when there is a big news event, a fair portion of the UK (as well as the rest of the planet) go to the BBC site. The cost difference of only paying for the necessary resources when you need them at that scale will be massive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

        > when there is a big news event, a fair portion of the UK (as well as the rest of the planet) go to the BBC site

        Do you have any numbers to back this up? My money says that most people get their news via so-called social networks and the only thing that takes a hit are content distribution networks' AMP caches.

        > The cost difference of only paying for the necessary resources when you need them at that scale will be massive.

        Only if the rest of the time your costs are actually cheaper, which I haven't found to be the case with AWS. Not to mention vendor lock-in.

    4. Wayland

      Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

      Amazon will be part of the UK government soon.

      1. GloomyTrousers

        Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

        The UK government will be part of Amazon soon.

        ^FTFY

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Instead, the BBC team devised a new architecture based on serverless computing."

          "The UK government will be part of Amazon soon."

          You jest, but...

          With this move, a grinning bald headed guy can now say from his secret mountain lair, "Nice news website, it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it...". At least there's always the The Washington Post, if that were to happen, eh?

          Also, in the current lockdown in Englandshire, Amazon is one of the few places where people can now satiate their (non-food) shopping desires... (OK, it's probably reasonable to close non-essential shops, as they'd probably struggle if only very severely limited numbers of customers were allowed in, but, still...)

          Just as well Tomorrow Never Lies [sic].

  12. quartzz

    this seems like a appropriate place to say some opinions about their comment section ('HYS' - have your say)

    - The Beeb don't want a HYS comment section - it's just there to keep people quiet - ironically

    - comments sections are messy places where the *gasp* public have input - and public thoughts are not inline with prepared, 'presented', 'official-looking' BBC policy.

    - it just takes resources (moderators). but hey, while the hys is there, the mods absolutely love the delete button. a *lot* is moderated. a lot can be moderated - the Beeb does not rely on user engagement. if people leave - it doesn't really matter much. #licensefee

    - the format is abysmmal. while the daily mail doesn't get much right, it has a good comments format. 75%* of the navigation clicks on the BBC website are people trying to find the ratings for their own comment

    that's my input

    *I made that number up

    1. TRT Silver badge

      The Daily Fail has one of the worst websites of all time. You can't zoom in or out without adverts flying over the content, you can't reply to comments in the mobile view, half the time comments fail to be recorded... I could go on. Having said that, HYS on the BBC is also pitiful, lacking threaded comments for one.

      1. quartzz

        have only once or twice ever seen the adverts on the DF....on a re install before I put an ad blocker in

        come to think about it before I got an SSD, the loading times for the DF site on a laptop 2.5" HDD are absolutely.....utterly....atrocious. I think I saved the front page once just to check, it came in at 5MB or something. or more.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Well, duh.

      Letters pages in old media are exactly the same. You can't *stop* the public from writing in, but if you publish the stuff they do write, that helps to keep it civil. And of course you have to decide what to publish and what not to, that's what a responsible publisher does.

      And the BBC *is* a responsible publisher, unlike those $EXPLETIVEs at Facebook and Twitter.

      As for the Daily Mail - I'd be ashamed to admit that I even knew what their "comments" section looks like.

      1. quartzz

        the Df is accessable. I once ventured there because I was bored of the BBC. the ability to vote down shtupid comments without registering 'attracted' me. haven't opened the Df in about a year now tbh.

        BBC - left wing. Df - right wing. that's.....balance.....sort of. Facebook I've practically left. twitter is a cl*sterf*ck .... which is probably closer to reality than the information the BBC gives at the moment?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clueless

    Just for lols, I fired up the BBC News front page in my laptop browser with JavaScript disabled.

    I got the single-column mobile view.

    This is a company that doesn't even know how to do responsiveness without resorting to script.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Clueless

      Yes, well, if you are thinking about rendering on the server rather than what the CLIENT will be doing with the page... what does one expect?

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Single column view

      You can have "plain, just works" or you can have "fancy". You turn off "fancy", you get just the news.

  14. Torchy

    Not all is well.

    Just looked up a news item from 2011 on the BBC News website about what will happen if Greece leaves the EU.

    Story format is borked, pictures positioned over text and generally unreadable.

    Is this progress?

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Not all is well.

      Also how is it Serverless? It's real servers belonging to Amazon.

      Also Amazon makes a good profit from AWS.

      Like getting rid of most other BBC Engineering, this is simply outsourcing, a thing loved by Accountants and Marketing people, because obviously the only thing that matters is marketing the Brand with the lowest in house overhead..

      Though a Government forced the outsourcing of the National Transmitter infrastructure, they'd do it anyway.

      1. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: Not all is well.

        It's a misnomer. There's always a server (or many severs) involved somewhere. But the idea is that a short snappy event-triggered function runs somewhere in the AWS infrastructure, and you let Amazon worry about scaling up the compute resources.

      2. James R Grinter

        Re: Not all is well.

        Serverless is essentially “I don’t have to patch the OS”.

        Which is actually quite an attractive idea, tbh. One less thing to have to keep an eye on, if you’re confident your vendor has the capability. Gripes with AWS aside, I think we can agree that they do.

    2. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh494

      Re: Not all is well.

      the broken format of those pages was intended to reflect the state of Greece at the time. It's called "Interpretative Presentationability As A Service," look it up.

  15. Chris Coles
    Thumb Down

    Lost opportunity

    Once you hand another organisation, outside of your previous total control, in house system; surely, you are from then onwards, you are a hostage to fortune, as now you do not have any control over new appointments to your supplier's management. Then add, what a missed opportunity for the nation. We were taking back control of the nation, and a great starting point would have been allowing the BBC to create their own; British nation style AWS system . . . to underpin their world status as a broadcaster. And add all those jobs for our young citizens, forming a part of a new UK industry, supporting the development of the BBC world wide.

    1. SAdams

      Re: Lost opportunity

      The BBC is not in the business of web hosting. If there is not already a serious British cloud hosting vendor, that suggests Amazon and Microsoft are doing a better job.

      If you think you can do a better job, then do it. But what the BBC chose to use is about what is available that meets their hosting requirements.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Lost opportunity

        "What the BBC chose to use is about what is available..."

        Same can be said for stereo sound, outside broadcasting, digital text service over the air, etc?

        The BBC had internal networks from the 60s, discrete IP networks in the 70s and business wide in the 80s - working WWW services from 1994 on, which I regard as pretty quick to the game; they have always been at the forefront of communications technology, digital and analogue, because communication *IS* their business. Hardware, software and content.

        I'll concede that there is stiff competition from the tech giants (NB who have moved into content generation), and there is a standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants things going on, but the BBC exist in a special niche where they have the freedom to develop their own technology to meet their own needs, be they commercially questionable or not. They are innovators and long may they remain so.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Lost opportunity

          Unfortunately, I can give you only one update.

        2. 96percentchimp

          Re: Lost opportunity

          The Beeb is a great innovator, but its resources are tiny in comparison to the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc, and heavily scrutinised because it's funded by the public, so it has to be selective about where it spends the R&D pennies (and they are pennies, in comparison to total budget and the commercial sector).

          Some of it's right at the cutting edge (HD/4K/8K) and often in collaboration with other forward-thinking state broadcasters like NHK or through the EBU; developing the technology to support what the viewers/listeners/readers see, like DVB-S2 or DVB-T2 for HD broadcasting. Some of it's supporting the production sector or creatives (take a look at the experimental writing tools at https://www.bbc.co.uk/makerbox).

          The BBC's remit obliges it to make most of its R&D freely available, so commercial providers like Sky can gobble up all the groundwork, launch a service like Sky HD, and crow about being the technology leaders. (I'm not saying Sky doesn't innovate, but they build the house; they don't make the bricks or lay the foundations.)

    2. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Lost opportunity

      "a great starting point would have been allowing the BBC to create their own; British nation style AWS system . . . to underpin their world status as a broadcaster. And add all those jobs for our young citizens, forming a part of a new UK industry, supporting the development of the BBC world wide."

      Do you remember, in the early days of the web, the BBC (which did at that time very much have its fingers on the pulse of what would be coming to us in, as it were, Tomorrow's World) set up the BBC Networking Club (also, article about the BBCNC on the BBC website) as both one of the very first ISPs and a way to educate the public about (and how to use) the internet?

      Apparently (I "heard this somewhere" (on usenet, I think), and can't cite a reliable source), one of the reasons that the BBC Networking Club was then shut down after a relatively short period of operation was that it was becoming far too popular and was making too much money (and was therefore risking stifling the emergence of other, purely commercial, ISPs).

      There is an argument about the state (or an arm of the state) perhaps stifling the free market, but there is probably also an argument that an arm of the state can be that useful kickstarter of innovation which could then later spin off commercial companies, having built up a stable footing.

      (And, yes, in a way, it is rather ironic that a bookseller, with a couple of servers, then became a server farm with an online bazaar attached, and then, having that ever growing server farm, decided to fill it up with online television, and then started creating tv programmes and films of its own…)

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    News?

    I stopped accessing BBC websites ages ago. Are they doing:

    a) Actual News?

    b) Letting people close or from the UK access the .co.uk site again?

    c) Any innovation.

    They used to have a decent R&D dept.

  17. xyz

    Ah... That's why it doesn't work

    I'm in Europe and nothing under BBC.co.uk/europe/aStory renders on a phone (edge or opera) . Then there is other weird stuff to do with cookies and advertising and this bit works but this bit doesn't. Was driving me nuts, but at least now I know why.

  18. Graham 6

    So it's the old new again

    Server side rendering is what we had in the 90's, and it was called CGI.

    So this wonderful new technology is just another faster horse.

    Anyway why would I pay a gazzilion dollars to AWS to render something which I can offload to the client for free?

    Would the BBC recuperate that money in increased revenue? no.

    Doesn't make sense.

    Might as well just make sure the Javascript application is written properly and not vomit RAM and network resources all over the client.

    Peanuts .. monkeys

  19. grex88
    Thumb Up

    Au contraire

    I know this is the Register and according to comments here everything anyone does is always wrong but it seems to me that the changes they have made make complete sense :shock: They obviously know their requirements better than I (and most other commenters) do, but I can imagine a world in which their changes make complete sense.

    1. The clearly need to have fast scaling in both directions (Lambda) instead of having unused spare capactiy chewing up money (EC2). With EC2 they would always need to keep ahead of the curve in terms of demand and can you imagine the backlash if a spike in traffic occurred which resulted in demand overwhelming supply?

    2. Their HTML looks minified. Which is as it should be. They do not have a requirement to present HTML in a format that is easily consumable by scrapers.

    3. They seem to have built a platform that supports the needs of many disparate user groups in the business layer. This speaks well to future extensibility - I hope they haven't overcomplicated it though.....

    4. Server-side code means the logic of building a page is done, then the result is cached. Therefore there is less work to render any given page (whether this work is done on the client or the server). This probably wasn't a compelling reason for them to choose this approach but it is a desirable side effect.

    Etc.

  20. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I run RTR's Ceefax Simulator and it's getting harder and harder to parse the BBC's data stream there's so much crud in it. Kudos to Richard for continuing to weed it.

    I know people with screen readers who are similar trouble. THEE DIV PRESIDENT OF DIV THE UNITED DIV DIV STATES DIV....

  21. FIA Silver badge

    Walmart engineer Alex Grigoryan, who also oversaw a migration to SSR, tested SSR vs client-side rendering (CSR) and said: "When we did A/B tests on SSR vs CSR... our numbers showed better engagement from the customer with rendering early," though he noted increased server load as a major disadvantage.

    Genuinely curios to know the state of the client rendered stuff. I've seen some beautiful looking sites that take a dogs age to load due to including half the internet in JS libraries. Whereas a site built by someone with a good knowlage of CSS and the like can be made to look amazing and still be quick and responsive. (and if you're markup/scripting isn't actually a multi megabyte download the overhead is probably negligable).

    I appreciate with the requirements of large dev teams, and modern frameworks helping make the backend code more maintainable sometimes at the expence of the absolute leanness of the content vs hard to maintain but lean hand tuned CSS/HTML and JS (or whatever it is the kids use these days) but I do wonder if sometimes server side rendering is just the 'easiest' way to compensate for overburdening the client with unnecesary cruft when parsing/rendering.

  22. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh494

    "To the question of why the org didn't use the opportunity of server-side rendering to deliver more human-readable HTML that would be better for parsing and accessibility tools..." Just a friendly reminder that the goal is NEVER to make website HTML more "human-readable." The major goals (aside from obviously rendering webpages properly) are: 1) to be easily and readily parseable by search engines; and 2) to be unambiguously readable by accessibility tools. Neither of these goals has ANYTHING to do with being human-readable. In fact it's easy to devise scenarios in which making HTML markup more human-readable would harm both SEO and accessibility goals.

    Related: i'd suggest moving past the idea that the goal of any website should be to be easily parsed by scrapers (like the ones people write to extract and repurpose content from web pages such as the BBC's). Many news organizations don't WANT to make it easier for third parties to repurpose their content without permission or attribution - news-scrapers do not have some inalienable right to your site being easily scraped. Not to say that all scraping is "evil" - just that it's nearly always sort of a hack. And organizations who DO want to make their content available to third parties generally expose APIs for that very purpose.

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