20th Anniversary of the BBC Networking Club Launch
Remarkably, today marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the BBC Networking Club, the first BBC online presence which was set up primarily to educate users about the internet and allow access to the online revolution that was then in its early stages. On 11th May 1994 the site, www.bbcnc.co.uk was launched in conjunction with BBC2’s The Net, and 5 Live’s Big Byte broadcasts, all of which set to educate viewers with the fundamentals of the world wide web and the rapidly changing world of IT, at a time when the internet seemed quite a curious concept to some and a very daunting prospect to others.
Key figures behind the BBC Networking Club were Peter Riding, Julian Ellison, George Auckland and Brandon Butterworth, and it was Butterworth who was responsible for registering the bbc.co.uk domain, as well as playing a huge role in the development of the technical infrastructure of the BBC.
For a fee of £12 per month, the not-for-profit subscription provided internet access with the BBC acting as an ISP, and education tools such as Babbage’s Guide to the World Wide Web, explaining more about the technological phenomenon. The BBC Networking Club’s live bulletin board “Auntie” was also available offering a chance for early interaction with the online community and along with real-time conversation with others, email and access to BBC archives were also part of the package.
The BBC recognised the potential for a site that could provide information resources and facilitate interactive training offering educational benefits to users of all ages, as well as a platform for the publishing of support materials and a tool to allow viewers interaction with its programmes.
Further BBC web based developments came in December 1997 with the launch of BBC Online, an offering which now includes services such as news and sport, weather, radio and BBC iPlayer as well as a vast array of learning resources which focus on subjects such as history, health, science and nature amongst others. Such is the extent of its growth in the last 20 years the BBC site is now one of the most popular in the world currently ranked 61st and 5th in the UK, and is regarded as the world’s largest news website.