The software used to access the BBC homepage: Beta software, edge products and conclusions - part 6

 by Martin Belam, 22 October 2005

Beta Software and Edge Products

I was surprised to see quite a small penetration of the current beta software. With both Vista and IE7 out in the wild I expected to see a reasonable amount of use. Perhaps they just don't just have the buzz around them that open source does? IE7 has 0.04% browser share overall, and 0.05% share of the Internet Explorer generated requests. From the IE family only versions 2 and 3 generated fewer requests. Windows Vista generated just a 0.16% share of the Windows OS requests, with less than 36,000 requests. In fact we see more visitors still using Windows 95 than we see trying out Windows 2006.

In contrast, on the cutting edge of early adopters were the 4,000 plus requests claiming to come from hand-held Sony PSP devices. There were also some lone torch-bearers for obscure browsers - I had never heard of Japanese open source browser Sunrise.

It was nice to know someone is looking after how the BBC will look in Google by using the Poodle Predictor on our behalf.

And some people have been using the Proxomitron filter to view the page in a stripped down version - I loved the idea of it even more when I found out about the terms and conditions of use. It is apparently Shonenware*:

Under the terms of Shonenware, Proxomitron is free for personal use. You can use the program as often as you like for as long as you like. You are under no restriction to stop using it after so many days, or indeed ever! You can also, of course, freely copy it as long as you abide by certain conditions (see below). However, If you find the program useful you're encouraged to "register" it.

How to register....

To register simply go out and buy any CD, record, or tape by Shonen Knife, listen to it carefully, and e-mail me your impressions of the album. Be sure to include detailed-enough descriptions of the songs to convince me that you actually *did* buy the album ;-). Alternately, mail (not email - no binary attachments please) me a picture of you holding the CD. If you can convince me you really do own a Shonen Knife album, well, then you're registered.

I believe the Proxomitron to be a safe and useful application, but I can make no guarantee that it will work properly (or at all), or that some unforeseen bug won't inadvertently cause damage, compromise your system, or even wake Godzilla.

Software that you can't guarantee won't wake Godzilla - you can't say fairer than that.


I don't think there is a huge conclusion to be drawn from this, aside from the fact that Firefox has clearly made large gains at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer in the browser market for PCs, and that similarly Safari as a latecomer to the market has seized the high ground amongst Mac users.

One thing that would intrigue me would be to benchmark these figures against other browser use surveys of comparable sites.

At the BBC we tend to make some assumptions about the computer usage of the audience to the BBC homepage. We expect it to be skewed towards people who are newer to the internet. We expect it to be skewed towards corporate environments, where it will often be deemed an "acceptable" site to visit even if many are restricted by IT policy. We also expect it to be widely used at home on shared computers. All of those lead me to assume that there would be a lower than average take-up of Microsoft alternatives, and a higher skew toward usage of security patched Internet Explorer and XP. Unfortunately there are very few figures from other big media companies to compare against, and I don't have historical data, but I think that such high usage of Firefox amongst BBC visitors represents a significant erosion of Microsoft's share of the browser market over the last two years.

*I might be tempted to set some equally entertainingly idiosynchratic terms and conditions next time I have some shonky perl script available on currybetdotnet to download - it is liable to be something like "LeytonOrientWare", although perhaps making would-be users sit through 90 minutes of League Two football is a bit much to ask.

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