Moving the BBC homepage

 by Martin Belam, 23 November 2005

We made a change today in the way the BBC homepage is published, which hopefully will have gone totally unnoticed to our audience.

When you request the URL you don't get served a page in the root directory of the web-server. Instead a whole series of rewrite and redirect rules analyse the request, and punt you off to if the request comes from a phone, or lands you at a page within the directory where the homepage lives if you are not a phone.

For years that page has resided in a sub-directory called /today/ (hence how the Radio 4 Today site ended up as the front page a few weeks back when an incorrect update was applied to the rewrite rules). That directory had got into an absolute mess, with bits and pieces of files from things like the Live8 special, the Dalek special, a one-off Valentines Day site the homepage team ran once, and fragments of code from September 11th 2001 when the servers were so overloaded that we were having to ftp updates to the news by hand onto the then BBC Online homepage.

Not anymore. It has been shifted to a nice, clean, fresh directory, and the code has had a good spring-clean, the naming conventions have been improved, and it should all make it easier to work out what is happening on the page and what needs editing in the event of systems breaking.

Testing the page is always tricky. Within the BBC we see the website from a dedicated internal server, so we can test things on that without breaking the site to the public, but our publishing mechanism is geared up to putting content live, not content-live-to-only-one-server-at-Siemens. So today the eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted us testing the emergency 'Publish Now' functionality with the slightest of changes to the homepage promo.

Spot the difference, two versions of the same promo published today on the BBC homepage


<strikethrough>At the start</strikethrough> In the beginning was the word...

There is a very very subtle picture difference too.....

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