26 agosto 2008

BBC iPlayer, la radio via Web come non l'aveta mai vista

Il BBC Internet Blog ci racconta come sia stato ulteriormente potenziato per l'ascolto (e il riascolto) dei programmi radiofonici il BBC iPlayer, l'avanzata interfaccia Web per sintonizzarsi via Internet con ben 57 stazioni radio diverse e una miriade di trasmissioni e notiziari. Tra le novità c'è una capacità di "buffering" che consente di riprendere l'ascolto di un programma nel punto in cui la ricezione si è interrotta (per un crash di sistema o una interruzione di linea), una funzione di ricerca dei contenuti molto più potenti, la fruizione di immagini della "visual radio" e molto altro.
BBC iPlayer funziona anche per gli ascoltatori che si sintonizzano dall'Europa e dal resto del mondo, con qualche limitazione. Alcuni programmi, come le cronache sportive, non si possono ascoltare fuori dal Regno Unito per questioni di copyright. E bisogna trovarsi in Gran Bretagna - e disporre di un computer Windows, in grado di gestirne i diritti d'autore - per poter accedere al download manager, la funzione che consente all'utilizzatore di iPlayer di memorizzare sul proprio disco e riascoltare per un periodo massimo di 30 giorni, tutti i programmi. iPlayer consente di navigare in una settimana di trasmissioni già andate in onda, ma non supporta ancora la gestione dei numerosi podcast della BBC. Per questo (e per una estensione del download managet anche a Mac e Linux) bisognerà attendere ancora un po' di tempo. Se si vuole si può anche consultare lo sterminato Podcast Directory a questo indirizzo.

iPlayer Radio: Buffering & Programme Availability Update

With over 57 different radio stations (and goodness knows how many radio programmes), moving radio over to the BBC iPlayer was always going to be a big piece of work.
By and large, it's working very well - we've a ton of interesting statistics which we're poring over. We'll make some available on this blog at some point in the next few months.
We've successfully delivered a good improvement in audio quality for Listen Again content within the UK, as well as a much more sophisticated user interface, allowing you to view by category, by schedule, or by station.
peterallen.pngRadio now comes with pictures (so that's what BBC Radio 5 live's Peter Allen looks like). If the doorbell rings or Windows decides to reboot again, you can start listening again from where you left off.
And the search functionality in iPlayer is really good. It's a tremendous step forward from the old BBC Radio Player.
But inevitably, some things haven't worked perfectly. Currently, we're seeing two issues which I want to be open about, and wanted to let you know we're working on.
The audio for a small amount of programmes was occasionally unavailable - and the problem was worse if you were outside the UK, or using a wifi radio. We found the problem late last week, related to a few upload problems we've been having, and hope that we have now fixed this issue. Incidentally, almost all of these programmes would still have been missing had we been running the old Radio Player; our fancy new interface isn't to blame.
Secondly, we're getting a some reports of excessive "buffering", where the audio stops while your internet connection catches up.
For those of you in the UK, you'll spot a "modem users" link that we've added, which gives you a version of the feed which is lower bitrate (and thus should cope just fine), but I'd be very interested to hear from people for whom the audio is buffering - particularly if you can watch the TV content within iPlayer without being interrupted by buffering. Feel free to comment here with your, er, comments. Higher bitrate is something many are asking for; but excessive buffering isn't a side-effect anyone wants.
Whether it's the new BBC homepage, last.fm or Facebook, it's clear that there's a small number of people who find changes to the look and feel of familiar websites upsetting. When it doesn't work as perfectly as you'd expect, it's doubly irritating.
I could, accurately, defend iPlayer's radio section for being much more reliable than the old BBC Radio Player which it replaced, not to mention the additional functionality we have been able to introduce - but I know that if you can't get your favourite programme, that's all that really matters.
So instead, please simply accept my apologies if you're one of the few that has been affected, and know that we're working on it.

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