I've just been reading this article from The Register about how badly the BBC have messed up the iPlayer . The author writes about how the "iPlayer is of a multi-million pound failure that took years to complete, and was designed for a world that never arrived". I first wrote about the iPlayer back in July, two days before its launch. Soon after the launch I signed up to the beta and was accepted however my username and password never worked. After a couple of un-responded emails to the BBC I gave up. The press coverage since July had been minimum until The Register's article was featured on the front page of Slashdot yesterday.
I thought it would be worth giving the iPlayer another chance to see if it was really as bad as The Register said it was.
After visiting the iPlayer website for the first time you need to install some software - note you have to be in Microsoft Windows XP using Internet Explorer - if you are using a Mac or Firefox it wont work (also it wont work if you are one of the 600 Linux users out there either ;-)).
Installation doesn't take long and you can select what you want to watch through your browser.
Once finding something to watch and clicking download the application launches and the TV show starts to download. This took forever, I only have a 1mb connection but this 46% (125mb) took two hours before I got bored and just decided to finish this article. Whether this is the BBC's fault or BT's aggressive traffic filtering at peak times I don't know.
Anything downloaded in the iPlayer will only last for 30 days, this is because the DRM (digital rights management) attached to each TV show disables the video after this time (and stops you from doing other stuff like copying it to DVD). Why the BBC have done this I'm not sure, with the current backlash to DRM in the music industry at the moment it seems odd to do the same to video.
Broadcasters like Channel 4 are paid for advertising they sell in between shows, the BBC on the other hand is funded by UK license payers. Why would then the BBC need to protect something that has already been paid for by license payers? This makes the BBC's decision to restrict access to TV shows seem bizarre. Whether a technology sales man has sold DRM to the BBC or its poor management I don't know.
The iPlayer is not a bad application, it works and albeit a bit slow you do get to watch shows for up to 30 days after broadcast. The problem however ultimately is not the program but the reason for its existence in the first place. There are plenty of other easy ways to watch video online - Flash (YouTube, Google Video etc) and Bit Torrent (The Pirate Bay, Mininova etc) being the main two delivery methods. So why would the BBC invent their own content delivery method when there are perfectly good/better already available?
This leads to the only reason for the BBC iPlayer and that's DRM - a reason we have already pointed out is irrelevant because of the unique way the BBC is funded by license payers. It annoys me as a license payer because it seems the BBC have invented a problem, then spent almost