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BBC Launches APIs 249

Stefan Magdalinski writes "The BBC is opening up a slew of APIs to its content and applications via a new site,, and actively encouraging users to remix, mashup, and otherwise play with their content to create new applications. Already there's a few cool featured apps, my own BBC News wikipedizing proxy, and a version of BBC News "Use our stuff to create your stuff" is their slogan. Could a commercial broadcaster ever take a step like this?"
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BBC Launches APIs

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  • Missing Link (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:44PM (#12513323) Homepage
    1. Use our stuff to create your stuff
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!!!

    Terms & Conditions:

    4. The BBC may edit, amend or change the BBC Content that appears on the site at any time at its discretion. The BBC also reserves the right to modify or discontinue the site at any time.
    • by R34L ( 873028 )
      not free as in free beer? what is the world coming to?
    • Define profit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:49PM (#12513370) Homepage Journal
      Hopefully for the bbc profit = "wide distribution of knowledge", not that traditional profit = "massive bonuses for executives"
      • for the bbc profit = "wide distribution of knowledge"
        Knowledge or what UK government thinks is knowledge? The real question is, are UK's taxpayers (owners of BBC) benefitting from this?
        • Presumably it'll result in new and possibly cool methods to access the information they've paid to create.
        • The BBC is funded by license-payers not from taxes. Everyone with a TV pays the same license fee. Because of this they are as close to a public-interest or populist entity as I can imagine. That is not to say that all media should have a populist focus, but having a major slice of the market funded this way helps keep the news culture from sinking into a delusional state benefitting wealthy shareholders.

          Contrast with PBS in the United States, which is paid for (and therefore largely controlled by) a combin
          • "Everyone with a TV pays the same license fee"

            When I lived in the UK I didn't know one single person (apart from my parents - which doesn't count) who paid the license fee!

            The BBC even had vans with detection gear that would prowl the streets like Daleks looking for people like me and my friends who were watching Monty Python for free!
    • Re:Missing Link (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm an American, so correct me if I'm wrong, but i thought that the BBC is government funded and is not looking for step three.
      • Re:Missing Link (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Not quite. The BBC has the right to charge a "licence fee" on all households with a TV set. It works the same way as a tax, but it doesn't flow through the Government.

        Still, the main goal in the BBC Charter is to distribute information rather than to make money, so Step 3 still doesn't apply.
    • Re:Missing Link (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NeedleSurfer ( 768029 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:27PM (#12513718)
      And the problem is? What is wrong with them wanting control over their content and content distribution system? All they are saying is play with it but so will we. They don't make a site so you shamelessly copy them to profit or get eyeballs at your own site, it's even surprising (in a good way) that they actually let you play with their apps and give away their intellectual property that freely, all they want in return is the possibility for themselves to also play with it regardless of what you have done with it...

      Some people are never happy...
      • What is wrong with them wanting control over their content and content distribution system? All they are saying is play with it but so will we.

        Not exactly. It's fairly natural to want to defend this, but you have to look at it from all sides. They're giving you components to make stuff with, but then saying that, no matter what you build or how important it is, we may simply change our minds at any time, ruining everything you've done.

        It may seem like their perogative to do so, but the BBC is a publ

    • Re:Missing Link (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      4. The BBC may edit, amend or change the BBC Content that appears on the site at any time at its discretion. The BBC also reserves the right to modify or discontinue the site at any time.

      and what web service, especially free ones, don't have a similar clause in them?
    • Re:Missing Link (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Skevin ( 16048 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:17PM (#12514096) Journal
      > and a version of BBC News

      Now, what's to prevent script kiddies, or heaven forbid, more knowledgeable malware writers, from coming up with new means to zombify your computer to add to the growing pool of spam gateways, ddos relays, or simply an all out porn repository?

      I propose the domain, for exactly such acitivities.

      Solomon Chang
    • Someone figured that out on a post yesterday. I think I can combine them...

      1. Use our stuff to create your stuff
      2. Sell to Google
      3. Profit!!!
    • Without that condition, they could literally get sued anytime they made a change to their website (!) or decided to stop keeping it up.
    • Actually Step one is tax TV. The BBC is funded by Brittish Tax Payers and a bit by selling TV advertising. Ever notice that their website doesn't contain ads? Now they are sharing their IP to the rest of the world. It's Socialism at it's finest. The BBC is the worlds largest news/content provider. Why can't capitalist news organizations overtake the BBC? Instead we get comercial and ad ridden news and content. I've also noticed lately that there are quite a bit of U.S. television shows which are spin
  • Universal Streamer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:46PM (#12513338) Homepage Journal
    So what is the possibility that we could be converging on a universal streaming client? I know Microsoft and Real would like to see their systems become the ligua franca of streaming video, but the BBC has the advantage of a huge library of content.

    Will content trump market penetration?
    • Will content trump market penetration?

      I think that is the case with all information related products and services. There is a saying - "content is the king" and for very good reason. A good example could be Xbox vs Playstation earlier on. Most people were not eager to jump on Xbox bandwagon util they saw games like Halo, Doom start rolling out. So I think it is safe to say that content will determine market penetration.

    • The BBC also have the absolutely massive advantage in that they're not Microsoft or Real.

      I for one won't touch streaming content produced by that pair of bastards :)

  • by TheHonestTruth ( 759975 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:48PM (#12513357) Journal
    I'm confused... it sounds like someone is actually encouraging people to share information. I'll need to read that again. Hold on...


  • by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:48PM (#12513361) Homepage
    Sure, some people may bitch about having to pay a TV licence fee, but would this kind of thing ever happen if all broadcasters were only in the game for a profit?

    • by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:25PM (#12513701) Homepage
      I'm so disgusted with what passes for programming on the American TV networks that I'd be more than happy to pay the British TV license fee if it'd get me all the BBC content.

      Yeah, I'm sure the founding fathers are turning over in their graves at the idea of an American volunteering to pay a British tax, but then the founding fathers would understand if they had to watch the WB...
      • I'm so disgusted with what passes for programming on the American TV networks that I'd be more than happy to pay the British TV license fee if it'd get me all the BBC content.

        Get cable. Then you'll have (a) more than the network programming, such as the quality original series' on HBO, Discovery channel, History, channel, etc., and (b) the BBC channels (in many areas).

        Yeah, I'm sure the founding fathers are turning over in their graves at the idea of an American volunteering to pay a British tax, but th
        • Yes, cable gives you more choice, but speaking as a British ex-pat, BBC America != "the BBC channels". For one thing much of the content on BBC America isn't even produced by the BBC (they license material from other British networks like ITV and Channel 4), and for another most of the good stuff is either completely absent or very delayed.
      • Hey, I don't get BBC over my cable. I can get it but it would cost more. Does BBC charge cable TV companies in the US?
      • Perhaps the BBC should introduce a "donation" mechanism for those who like to use it's online services but don't have a UK T.V. licence. Of course, that would probably have to be given legislative footing, but if they did, it would be interesting how many people would contribute.
    • by soliptic ( 665417 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:39PM (#12513821) Journal

      I barely watch TV at all, but I'm happy to pay the TV license to fund the BBC. For all the (naive) /. belief in the "free market", and sniggering about the silly "socialist" "tax" on TV in the UK, I seriously challenge anyone to convince me that the BBC would do as much cool stuff as it does if it had to be fully commercial. Want proof? Look at ITV and Channel 5. Terrible. The BBC is bad enough due to even having to compete in the commercial marketplace - daytime/primetime schedules on BBC1 and BBC2 TV have been dragged down into the same wall-to-wall "reality TV" / soap-opera shite and are barely better than the garbage on the commercial stations. But even if the TV gems like Alan Partridge and The Office dry up, at least they still do stuff like amazing David Attenborough documentaries, a fantastic online resource, some truly great stuff on their radio, developing free (Free?) codecs. I don't think any of that would happen, at least not to the same extent, if they were "just another commercial TV station".

      • Actually, I think your example proves the opposite. ITV and Channel 5 are not offering terrible programming because the market wants it. On the contrary: ITV and Channel 5 are not nearly as popular as BBC programming. The problem lies with the TV executives who would rather go for easy sensationalist content with low risk, rather than provide useful and smart content like BBC. If the network executives would realize that more people would watch if the shows had real content, the private stations would b
      • Want proof? Look at ITV and Channel 5.

        It seems to be implicit in your comment from its absense that if you want counter-proof, you need only look at Channel 4. BBC these days (especially BBC1 and BBC3) is full of tired old Property development and child rearing reality shows. While Channel 4 isn't much better in prime time, they do tend to be the ones who take the risks in new drama, documentaries later on at night and my favorite, the 3 minute slot for amateur short films/mini-documentaries after the new

      • Actually, from the perspective of me & my family, Channel 4 is the best TV in UK at present. I recently did an inventory of all the stuff we've recorded onto DVD over the last year, and no joke, 90% of it is from CH4. And that's not stuff we've just time-shifted - it's all kinds of programming - documentaries, reality shows, films and series that we want to hang onto for some time, to watch again. And their evening news is the best too.
      • Look at ITV and Channel 5. Terrible.

        And yet look at Channel 4.

        The content is as good, if not better, than the BBC. There are only a couple of soaps, the news is presented in more depth and with less bias. The Science strands are not as dumbed down as Horizon (and do check out Dr Tatiana).

        They are also alot more pioneering, reality TV came first to C4, they have a welsh station, they showed Anatomy for Beginners.

        I dont know why C4 are so good, but I thinks its probably mostly that they have to have a b
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:54PM (#12513412)
    I want an API that turns any webpage into a Monty Python sketch!

    Customer: Excuse me, I would like to complain about this Windows Security Update what I downloaded just yesterday.
    Shopkeeper: Oh yes, a great Windows Update! Beautiful plummage.
    Customer: The plummage don't enter into it! The problem is that this Windows Security Update is dead.
    Shopkeeper: No, it's just resting! It will hop up any minute and dance around destroying viruses.
    Customer: This Windows Security Update would not dance around even if Linus Torvalds himself gave it CPR!

    Crow T. Trollbot

  • Further Proof... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:54PM (#12513427) Homepage Journal
    ...that the Beeb has got it right. In the media business, the focus should be on content generation and the flexibility of form in media. Who cares about market share or sales or ratings, when you are truly focused on creating content and sparking creativity amongst the viewers/readers/listeners, etc... This is why the quality of everything the BBC produces is of the highest caliber. The closest thing we have here in the states is the poorly underfunded PBS and NPR networks. The day that the Republicans decided to rip away government funding from PBS was a dark day indeed and we're still paying for it in every sense of the word. Discovery and TLC don't even come close to what PBS used to be able to offer when it got better governement funding. Kudos to the BBC for showing the rest of the world how good it could be.
    • >>>"why the quality of everything the BBC produces is of the highest caliber"

      Now, I watch my share of telly including a lot of American shows, Friends, ER, Simpsons, StarTrek.

      We get some good stuff from the BBC. But a lot of guff too.

      Why-o-why did the BBC have to pay millions, for example, to get a sports show (Saturday night footie) when the same footie was already on TV on a commercial station.

      Tell me how that sparks creativity - other than some £10 million footballer having to find cre
      • I'm sure the Beeb has it's problems. But compared to the crapfest we have here on 500 channels that we have to pay much higher rates for, you lot have it really good. As it is I pay nearly $600 a year ( I think that's around £275-300 a year) for what works out in reality to be 67 channels (DirecTV "Plus" package). Out of those 67, the local channels are not included unless I want to pay another $72 a year. The other thing is that they make the claim that you get all these channels when most of the
  • PBS next? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:59PM (#12513468)
    Could a commercial broadcaster ever take a step like this?

    Not likely, but what about PBS doing something similar to what the Beeb is doing? There are other non-commecial broadcasting entities around the world which could do similar things.
  • by Zangief ( 461457 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:00PM (#12513473) Homepage Journal
    Stream getMovie(char* movieName)

    getMovie returns a stream of data, if a movie called movieName exists, null otherwise.

    Stream getAd()

    getAd must be called before every call to getMovie. Otherwise, your computer explodes.

    From time to time, a call to getMovie is forwarded to a call to getAd.
    • by ChairmanMeow ( 787164 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:09PM (#12513554) Journal
      You must be thinking of RealPlayer ;)
    • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:12PM (#12513573) Journal
      Funny, but it's worth mentioning that the BBC have no ads on their TV channels, radio stations or website. That's not likely to change since they're funded by the license fee [] and as such we own them MWAHAHAHAHAHA...
      • Funny, but it's worth mentioning that the BBC have no ads on their TV channels, radio stations or website

        Last time I checked, there were ads on BBC World.

        • I stand corrected. In that case I hope they follow the precident set by most of their other services in remaining ad free.
          • The BBC not only do not advertise, they are not allowed to advertise, and even have to be careful about accidental product placement!
            • What's that bit they show between programs called again ... yeah, not all trailers are adverts I suppose. But what about the bit before the trailer, you know "buy the latest BBC book by the presenter of the previous show".

              How about programs like Johnathon Ross ... it's just a long advert for hollywood films, stage shows, TV programs, books ... guests go on and plug their latest commercial efforts. It's blatant and benefits the "guests" financially.

              Oh, and does anyone know who gets all the money from BBC m
        • And BBC World isn't paid for from the license, as it's intended for those outside of the UK. Which you can guess from the name.
      • Ah... not quite true I'm afraid...

        Sadly BBC TV has started to show lots and lots of advertising. Admittedly this is for its own programs but it's being done in the manner of all advertising and it's still really irritating (not on the scale of Sky irritating I'll grant you but still irritating.)

        And yes it is me who complains weekly to the regulator about it :)

        Sorry but if I'm paying for a TV service I expect it to be shown without advertising. If you're advertising at me I'm not going to pay for it.

  • This is cool. If enough people use this to create cool stuff, and it generates enough publicity, maybe more companies will follow. If not, Grease monkey [] will let us most of this, but not as easily.
  • by ganhawk ( 703420 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:04PM (#12513514)
    We should use the API's to generate automatic stories on slashdot.
    Ofcourse, generated stories will be rejected if it does not contain certain keywords or dupes. So I propose combining this with Slashdot random story generator []

  • Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:05PM (#12513524)
    BBC News wikipedizing proxy

    Doesn't this violate wikipedia's trademark?

    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 )
      BBC News wikipedizing proxy

      Doesn't this violate wikipedia's trademark?

      Well, wiki seems to becoming a verb like google at this rate.

      I see so many wiki-ish links all over the place nowadays it's hard to tell which are actually using wiki, and which are just wiki-like.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:09PM (#12513558)
    Does this mean that we will have to program in proper English with a stiff upper lip? Will we get a compiler error if we use American slang and/or spelling? As long as we don't have to program in Esperanto...
  • Oh the irony... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I do like the comments attached to wikiproxy stating that it underlines links because links are meant to be underlined.

    It's all well and good being standing up for these sorts of things, just so long as you adhere to those standards too.

    Checking out the authors' website shows an abundance of links that are not underlined. Ah, the irony.

    Kicking the BBC is too easy - you really don't come across as all that revolutionary by laughing and pointing at the mistakes they make. So let's give a huge *well done* t
  • There have been stories for a while that the BBC are putting all of their stuff online for download (for a price of course). Anyone heard any news on how that is progressing?
  • OGG/Vorbus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:23PM (#12513686) Journal
    Are they using OGG or their own codec?
    (I recall stories about them developing one)
  • Sexy (Score:2, Funny)

    by oliana ( 181649 )
    I've always found the BBC sexy. I used to think it was the accent, but I know I know it's a deeper love.
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:28PM (#12513725)
    Be promiscuous. Looks like they're basically planning to take over the news world.

  • by nordicfrost ( 118437 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:01PM (#12513990)
    Could a commercial broadcaster ever take a step like this?"

    As one who work in a commercial news website; nope. We offer simple feeds to private non-commercial sites that wants to have out 10 latest news headlines. But other than that, it would be like handing out gold over to the competition. Besies, we want people to visit our site. Not get all the goodies on other sites.

    Now, a state-run actor can do this, because their mraginal loss is approx. zero. We have a state rune broadcaster in Norway and they SUCK. I hate them with a passion, because thei charge the license fee and give us crap back. If there was an option to pay to the BBC and only get BBC programming to my TV, I'd do it in a heartbeat. NRK (the state broadcaster) has so much crap, I don't have the concistence to pay for it. So I don't have a TV.

    BBC is cool. they plan to make most of their archives available for the public free. Here we have out of copyright works DRMed in Windows Media DRM and published for a fee by the film board. How retarded is that? Do you want to see a clip from your state broadcaster produced comedy show that YOU financed through license fees? Cough up 5 dollars pr 1/2 hour, scumbag, and take this Media Player DRMed file.

    God, I hate them. No wonder they fail misreably in the internet sector, even while having the HUGE advantage f bein a state broadcaster.
  • It seems that Wikipedia becomes more and more integrated into the web. Regardless of what people say of its non-autoritativeness, it seems it's "good enough" for most. Most of my friends (even non-geek ones) know what "check the wiki" means, and it replaced the usual "google for it" in my vocabulary not long ago.
  • by HomeworkJunkie ( 877015 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:41PM (#12514253)
    It's only when I see comments on Slashdot (this shows the extent of my reading) that I come to appreciate what the BBC does and what my licence fee pays for. I have always been moaning about being forced to watch EastEnders by my wife, which is a realistic a portrayal of London as Friends is of New York.

    We do get a lot of American programs here and you start to think that the grass is greener. Then you actually watch an American channel and realise that most of the 40 minute program is made up of adverts. I was amazed the first time I saw an American channel. The titles started and then we went straight into an advert break. What!!. Talk about teasing you. You then watch 10 minutes of the actual program, which isn't bad, then you get the next ad break. You finally watch the last part of the program, which doesn't end with the titles but with another ad break. The titles then come after the ad break!?!

    Any hoo. The BBC website is always my first port of call for news, sport etc...; after Slashdot of course ;)
  • While BBC's announcement is still about offering RSS and RDF feeds, and their APIs are not yet available, their effort is in the right direction.

    Do you ever get the feeling that when a site finally puts up an RSS feed, they are saying 'Look, we now have a feed. Have at it folks. That's it on our end. No need to innovate further." In contrast, the BBC is not just giving out more feeds for RSS readers: they are giving components for creating applications.

    I work at Serence, a company that for the last th
  • by delete ( 514365 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:11PM (#12514436)
    Interestingly enough, as part of the BBC's new service, they've provided a tagging system (associated with delicious []).

    For example, the tags for Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United football club [] are currently given as:
    "utd wanker wanker asshat asshat utd beard"

    It's actually a great idea, but perhaps a little more tweaking may be in order.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.