Britannica.com launch, take two

Summary:Its first launch buried by an avalanche of users, encyclopedic site preps to try again Monday.

Britannica.com, the online arm of legendary Encyclopaedia Britannica, will re-launch its highly promoted Web site on Monday. The site was taken offline Oct. 20, barely 24 hours after its initial launch, due to a site overload.

"The good news is we have wonderful demand," said Kent Devereaux, senior vice president of product development for Britannica.com. "The bad news is we need to ramp up our hardware much quicker than we ever anticipated."

Devereaux said the decision to take down the newly launched site was made because "the level of service was not acceptable."

Since then, Britannica.com has brought on about 24 experts from Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq:SUNW) to help prepare the site for higher traffic levels.

On Monday, the site will be prepared to handle millions of unique users, about three to four times more than at its initial launch. Despite the higher capacity, Devereaux said he actually hopes usage will be down and receive less media attention so the company will be able to ramp up more gradually.

Not ready for mass 'attention'
"The day after we launched we were mentioned on the front page of five of London's nine daily newspapers," said Devereaux. "We just weren't ready for that kind of attention."

Devereaux believes the attention was largely due to the 231-year-old company's reputation for providing trustworthy information.

Britannica.com offers the contents of Encyclopaedia Britannica's massive database of information, free of charge. It also provides links to articles from 75 magazines, including Time, Sports Illustrated and The Economist.

Visitors can purchase books about their field of interest through a partnership with Barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq:BNBN) or use the online Britannica Store to make purchases from a number of online partners like The Smithsonian Institution and Art.com.

Britannica.com also features continuously updated news through a partnership with The Washington Post and Newsweek.

"We are, today, a majority electronic revenue company," said Devereaux. "That surprises some people because we're a 231-year-old company. Britannica.com is going to be our flagship product."

Britannica.com will roll out a version of its site specifically for members of the United Kingdom in February. It also has plans to launch a "Book of Hope" feature in mid-November featuring commentaries by world leaders like former South African president Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Increasing the site's database to include 10,000 images and audio clips is also on the horizon.

Topics: United Kingdom, Oracle, Software

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