How the BBC built its online news site from the ground-up

15 years ago this month, the BBC News Web site was launched. Built from scratch, one U.K. publication lifts the lid on how the world-leading news site was founded.

BBC News as it was in 1997. Credit: ZDNet.

Remember this? 

The days of cathode-ray monitors, 56kbps modems, Windows 95, and post-recession economic recovery. It was November 1997, to be specific, and it was cold, gloomy, and there really wasn't much going on at the time.

What a time then, of all things, to develop a news Web site. 

And now? It's covered with auto-updating feeds, tickers, splashy graphics and rounded fonts, and HTML5 videos and live broadcast streams. But, above all else, the same journalistic integrity as it once had (the last few weeks notwithstanding).

British technology news site The Register, in between the dry wit, humor and delivering the news with a constant undertone of sarcasm (which it does with pinpoint precision; one of many reasons why it remains on my 'favorites' tab in my browser) uncovered how -- in amongst the bureaucracy of the world's largest broadcasters by employee size -- the BBC News site was built from the ground up.

The four-page series explains how the tiny, breakaway tech-savvy group of BBC employees formed a unit to develop the content management system, how the Web site was supported by primitive back-end technology, and the heartbreak after the site crashed within the first few minutes of launching.

Despite it being at the very cutting edge of the World Wide Web era in the late-1990's, and when most weren't even connected to the Web, the development team still took it to heart. But, the site prevailed and 15 years later, the site now brings in tens of millions unique visitors per week -- most coming directly from the U.K. -- and rakes in roughly 0.1 percent of all daily page views from around the Web on a daily basis.

Pop the kettle on, and take 20 minutes to read how the BBC was "saved" by its endeavor into the developing online world. 

Read on: The inside story of the news website that saved the BBC