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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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Anonymous Coward

Not just auntie...

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

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Unhappy

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.

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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

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rss

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.

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Coat

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.

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Stop

hmm

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

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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.

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Happy

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?

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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.

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Flame

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

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Happy

Fine - use % instead

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

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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 news.bbc.co.uk 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.)

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Boffin

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.

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Jobs Halo

et tu iMacs?

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

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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.

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Stop

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.

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Boffin

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...

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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?

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Thumb Up

El Reg over/under bet challenge!!!

I love it when supposedly professional managers come out with stats that are patently wrong and nonsense.....it 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 squideroos....so 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!!

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Title

Netcraft confirms: http://searchdns.netcraft.com/?restriction=site+contains&host=bbc.co.uk&lookup=wait..&position=limited

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

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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.

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Stop

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.

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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?

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hmmm

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.

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Bronze badge
Stop

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.

Wow.

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...

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Stop

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.

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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...

http://gigaom.com/2007/11/01/nokia-the-n810-tablet-the-long-view/

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Anonymous Coward

Phone ins

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

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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.

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Damn

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)

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Stop

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 bbc.co.uk 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.

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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.

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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.

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Flame

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.

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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.

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@Gerrit Tijhof

If you refine the search to ".bbc.co.uk" (note leading period) you find that just one of the ~120 servers run a windows variant (jobtest.bbc.co.uk) 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)

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This post has been deleted by its author

Stop

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...

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Anonymous Coward

Frankly

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.

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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?

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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.

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Flame

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!

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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!

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Dom

@BkB

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

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Stop

@Dom

"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.

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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".

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Bronze badge

Cause and effect

Why would linux users frequent linux-unfriendly websites?

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Tom
Silver badge

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..

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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.

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Get writing - put up or shut up

Scott Williams is right on the money.

Write (email or snail) to Ashley Highfield (ashley.highfield@bbc.co.uk) 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 bbc.co.uk

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