back to article Rescue mission begins for Hitchhiker's Real Guide

Members of the h2g2 community consortium are in the market for someone to buy the site or donate some cash to the cause, after the BBC confirmed earlier this week that it was ending its 10-year hosting of Douglas Adams’ Real Guide to the Galaxy. The portal, a forerunner to Jimbo Wales’s runaway train Wikipedia, was unleashed …


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  1. Ian Ferguson

    I hope it lives

    I put a lot of time and effort into h2g2 in the early days, until it was bought by the BBC and promptly neglected; also, of course, until it became apparent that Wikipedia was the winner in terms of 'serious guide to everything'.

    In the early days there was a lot more emphasis on humour and creativity... until the beeb decided that it should be a serious guide. It's a small hope, but I'm still hoping it'll return to the Douglas Adams ethos.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Wikipedia isn't really a guide though

      H2G2 was full of stupid but interesting articles, such as how to make a jam sandwich, the best sex positions etc. Things which are highly subjective, weird, esoteric or otherwise completely unsuitable for any reference publication.

      That was it's charm. But it's fairly draconion submission policy combined with Wikipedia meant it did lose mindshare.

      I think the best thing that could happen to it is if someone indexed & crosslinked the archives and dumped the lot into a Wiki. Let the thing live with a more modern framework and a more liberal contribution policy. Maybe contributors need to be registered and there were appointed mods, but really it's little different from most forums in that regard. maintain or run.

    2. MineHandle

      new lease of life

      I thought the BBC simply took ownership of it based on the H2G2 copyright and then promptly ruined it by making it safe for work, kids and what have you. I remember reading and contributing to this site in the 90s before the BBC took it over. Another great site, ruined by a big souless corporation which completey fails to understand why the site is so successfull...

      I might even return to it if they manage to put it back out there amongst the community. Maybe Google could take it over and rank it up there with Wikipedia. That might even make for meaningful search results!

  2. M7S

    Any idea what resources would be required?

    in terms of both storage and traffic?

    This might just help any potential provider (maybe a large co-location centre, or a commercial enterprise with a significant data facility) know if a bit of spare capacity that it might have available to donate for some PR would suffice

    1. Ian Ferguson


      of both.

      There's a truly vast quantity of data on there, and it's still a popular community site with incredible user retention. It'll cost real money to run, even with zero maintenance; and provide no return.

      Somebody might take a shot at running it with advertising, but I think the best hope is charity.

  3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Why not...

    ...Just bung the content onto Wikipedia and be done with it? It's past time teh BBC stopped pissing the licence payer's money up the wall on niche things like this, and actually made more decent programmes, rather than the new dumbed-down special-effects fest Dr Who, or tripe like 'stenders.

    Yeah, yeah, flame on...

    1. Ian Ferguson


      the content isn't suited to Wikipedia, it'd all be deleted for not being 'factual' and referenced enough.

      It's more a community site than anything. The beeb bought it for the excellent community/forum technology behind it, more than for the content. The tech now powers all the forum activity on the BBC website.

    2. Pastey

      Not a flame, just a point of view

      h2g2 was always different from what Wikipedia is.

      If you're familiar with the works of Douglas Adams, it's kinda similar to Wikipedia being the Encyclopedia Galactica, informative but dull. h2g2 was more as it was in the books, less formal more fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Wikia, not wikipedia.

        Wikia is the organisation created to host wikipedia and it hosts free wikis for anyone who wants. h2g2 could have their own wiki, to which the wikipedia guidelines would not apply.

        In theory it should be as simple as getting an sql dump from the beeb, running a script to mung it into a new shape for the wiki's db, and uploading it. No need to raise funds or anything.

        1. Ian Ferguson
          Thumb Down

          Not quite that simple

          That would save the articles, yes, and some severe fiddling might even save the information on who wrote them.

          It wouldn't save the community content, forums and user information though, which are 95% of h2g2.

    3. Martin Owens


      It's likely the whole lot of h2g2's content is going down a black hole anyway. The licensing terms mean that every single contributor would have to be contacted in order to relicense their work as creative commons before it could be moved anywhere like wikipedia.

      This is why licensing for the unthinkable future is so damn important.

  4. Pastey

    At the moment...

    we don't know much.

    We do know that the BBC is definitely disposing of h2g2. They've assured us that doesn't mean they're closing it down. They've also assured us that they'll try and make sure they do the best by the community.

    That's about as much as we know at the moment.

    They've got some internal meetings lined up of the next couple of weeks to sort things out before we do know anything more and they have promised to keep us informed, which they have been doing as much as they can.

  5. Ball boy

    /sell/ it to us? How's that work, then?

    Hold on: the BBC is a Corporation wholly owned by the British taxpayers...I pay my tax and therefore I already own the H2g2 site and wouldn't have to buy it from the BBC!

    Granted, we should /sell/ it (at maximum profit) if we're letting a non-tax payer take ownership but if it stays in the UK, it should be a non-profit transfer of domain management.


    Okay, okay. Anyone who remembers British Gas' 'if you see Sid, tell him', the days before *Water PLC and so on will recognise that Government take a very..err..specialist view of 'ownership'.

    Where's my Wealth of Nations when I need it?

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Wealth of Nations

      The latest edition of "The Wealth of Nations" has been retitled "The Wealth of Formerly Bankrupt Banks" after the events of the last few years.....

    2. Steven Knox


      "...I pay my tax and therefore I already own the H2g2..."

      No, you own approximately one 30 millionth* of it. If you really want to take your share, fine. Here you go:


      Have a nice day.

      *1/30 700 000 figure based on assuming taxes other than income tax are considered fee taxes rather than stakeholder taxes and that your income tax is roughly average. So you're probably getting more than your fair share here, but I'm feeling nice.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE: Fractions

        At what point did you factor in the tax which goes by the name of 'TV license'?

        1. Magnus Ramage


          You're quite right of course. So here you are:


    3. Anonymous Coward


      Indeed - I think the same thing every time I walk past the local "BBC Shop", and see a bog-standard DVD of some old series on sale for 35 quid *when I have already coughed up the extortionate licence fee for it to be made*.

      Again, I ask - Register, bring on the "No BBC tax" post icon, please.

      1. Andrew_F


        You <i>helped</i> to pay for it to be made and broadcast, not distributed on DVD. And the BBC profiting in other areas should help to keep your licence fee down, so it's hardly skin off your nose.

        1. G Wilson


          Nonsense - my BBC tax is not hypothecated - I pay toward all its operations, not just broadcasting, and the BBC's continual double-dipping (enforced by the time-limitation of "iplayer" offerings) is unfair to BBC taxpayers.

  6. back_ache

    The Register should buy it

    The humour would be a good fit at least

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    /sell/ it to us? How's that work, then?

    So was British Rai and British Airways but you just try and borrow a train or a plane and see the fuss they make

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not falling for that again.

      Not after last time...

  8. patrick_bateman

    I never herd of it

    Great advertising/publicity Repeat. Sorry BBC.

    I get the word Repeat and BBC muddled these days.

  9. Keith 21

    Time for people to put their money where their mouths are.

    If there are sufficient people interested in providing sufficient money to take over the hosting and running of the site, it survives; if there are not enough people prepared so to do then we know it was not worth maintaining anyway.

    Given the number of people talking about how it shoudl be saved, I'm sure they'd raise more than enough money to make a go of it.

  10. mark 63 Silver badge

    my share

    ok , I'll take my share home - about a 70 millionth?

    I'll take the lot if you like but i'm not buying you 70 million out.

    and if I see 'Sid' i'm gonna beat my 70 millionth of a gas company out of him.

  11. JaitcH

    This decision illustrates just how brain-dead the BBC Trust is

    What better example do we need to show just how out of touch the BBC Trust members are completely out of touch with the listening public's demands of the BBC are.

    This is as empty headed as people can get. They most likely think Melvyn Bragg satisfies the audience!

    1. Pan_Handle


      I should have thought that H2G2's niche is somewhat smaller than Melvyn Bragg's.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    fancy makeover

    Umm, if the current state of the h2g2 pages are the result of a makeover, how bad was it before?

    1. D@v3


      in my opinion, it looked better before the 'make over' looked more like what I imagined the 'fictional' guide to look like (which i guess was the point)

  13. Andus McCoatover

    Try again, [sic]MOD. See first, mind.

    [TITLE]not trying to deceive [sic] you → #

    * Submitted at Wednesday 26th January 2011 15:42 GMT

    * Rejected by moderator at Wednesday 26th January 2011 16:06 GMT why?


    Can't see what's "[sic]" about that.

    Did I lose my " 'i' before 'e' except after 'c' " mantra?

    Must be my age. The age of the pedant.

  14. Chad H.

    Why no el reg as savior?

    I can't think of a better home for Douglas' Adams living memorial than The Register... If DA wasn't a frequent visitor, well he should have been, I think he'd feel at home with the vultures style...

    What do you say El Reg? Are you up to the challenge of hosting a site that did social media before it was cool?

  15. Graham 25

    Typical BBC wastage

    Of course they gave it a makeover of sorts - thats what the BBC does.

    Wasting money is what I mean.

  16. anarchic-teapot

    Where do I signup?

    I pay a small amount of UK tax, although I'm not allowed to do anything as controversial as vote, or even voluntarily pay for the streaming of BBC programmes.

    I'd love to get involved, HTF do I email these guys? Messages posted on a forum rarely lead to anything serious, in my experience, although I'm going to give it a try.

  17. Graham Dawson

    They could sell it...

    ... or they could just replace it with a single page about the whole of earth.

    "Mostly Harmless."

    <-- The one with the towel...

  18. Antony Shepherd
    Thumb Up

    About time

    Personally I think the BBC should never have acquired H2G2 in the first place, and I was surprised it took them this long to get rid of it.

  19. stizzleswick


    (can't believe nobody here has seen that one before...)

  20. Anonymous Coward

    more waste of my TV license

    screw the lot of them, we're not paying for your website for content as an edge use-case should be hosted somewhere else in someone else's £0.10p.

    Good riddance!

  21. Jolyon Ralph


    I don't know why everyone seems so surprised. The plans for the destruction of H2G2 to make way for an internet bypass have been available to view in the local council for years.

  22. Jacqui


    I had a BBC employee on the doorstep two nights ago. He had a clipboard and ask in a roundabout way if I would be interested in a free sky box as part of a special deal to entice people away from virgin. I told him that we dont have a TV so a sky box would be useless to us.

    I had had one hell of a day at work and should have

    1) asked for ID

    2) photographed him and his ID

    3) reported the deception.

    We *were* considering getting a sattelite dish and TV just after xmas (in the sales) but your most recent offensive, threatening letter made me feel that I would only be giving in so we missed our chance of a lovely sattelite system for 35UKP :-(

    FYI we decided to try life without a TV for one year (about five years ago) to see how much more we could get done without a gogglebox, but soon after the threats, demands, attempted breakins and abusive calls started and I just cannot see how I can buy a TV and licence without feeling I am giving in to such abuse.

  23. Mrs Zen

    H2G2 - aten't dead yet

    We've been overwhelmed by the good will and helpful offers from people whov'e read about our plight here and elsewhere.

    The H2G2 Continutiy Consortium's formed and busy in Google Groups (link from here: - or go directly - )and yes we do reply to all posts). We've been visited by journalists wanting to tell our story, by people offering us server space and yet more server space (which is amazing) and by folks who've been where we are. One saw his community backed up to tape and locked in a vault - ye gods! - but another successfully did what we may have to do.

    We don't want to buy the site from the BBC, we want whatever is best for the Guide and the Community, and reluctantly accept that it may come to that. We hope it doesn't though.

    Right now, I'm hopeful. We have the skilz. We've been offered temporary hosting. We're making contingency plans around cash. I do believe we can put the show on right here in barn. Er. That would be in the server farm.

    Thanks all for your good wishes

    Mrs Zen (on h2g2 on and off since June 2000)

  24. Hapi

    Oh, Hootoo will live

    Don't panic, Hootoo will survive. Where else would I spend my Saturday nights?

  25. illiad

    @Jolyon Ralph:

    you forgot to say where it was...

    stuck to the back of a locked filing cabinet, behind a padlocked door, down (broken) basement stairs, it's door way locked, with big notice 'beware of the man eating tiger'...

  26. John Tserkezis

    Learn something every day.

    Just found out about h2g2 through this article.

    Never knew it existed.

    Wonderful site.

    Apparently it has just been re-vamped to a "Brand New H2G2" standard.

    On first impression, it needed it.

    It has many great articles that are "Approved" by a panel.

    "Which are checked and sanctioned by the H2G2 Editors".

    I have no idea of what I want, so I need someone else to tell me.

    It also has a feature that tells of the weather around the country that is a mere four days out of date.

    Updated by people who stick their heads out the window to see if it's raining.

    Wow, I'm so impressed, it's like they've never heard of the Internet. Or something.

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