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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 10:09 GMT
10 years of the BBC News website

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

The BBC News website is 10 years old this week.

There had been forays into web publishing by BBC News before that date, starting with a Budget website in March 1995 and culminating in a hastily coded Death-of-Diana site in August 1997.

But even though we can't pinpoint the exact minute - the start being more like a swimmer carefully inching into icy waters than an ocean liner proudly splashing in a spray of champagne - we know it was some time this week in 1997.

It's also impossible to say with certainty what our front page looked like on Day One. This was not a symptom of the kind of cultural blindness that wiped early tapes of Doctor Who or Top of the Pops. It was rather that those involved were too busy getting the site working.

The Interactive News Room
See where it happens - a 360-degree panorama of the website's newsroom.

But the significance of what was taking shape was certainly not lost on them. Indeed, while most of their friends were mystified or scornful, their fond hope at that moment was that posterity would see this as momentous. (Many of the original cast are still members of the team.)

Though much has changed about our site, and about the web, the early version is still recognisable: BBC News banner across the top; index names down the left hand side; stories in the middle, and links on the right. But the launch site had just a handful of indexes - UK and World news, of course, Business, Sci/Tech, Sport and a forerunner to Have Your Say.

A distinguishing feature of the launch site was three clocks on the front page banner, indicating different world times, with the UK in the middle. "Good evening, San Francisco," the left clock would say. "Good morning, Tokyo," the right.

1997 screengrab
Just a blurred memory: Our three clocks
It was a charming illustration of the instantaneous global reach of the web. Unfortunately, in a world with Netscape Navigator and 14.4k dial-up modems, it was also the single biggest reason the website would not load. The clocks quickly found their way into the Trash.

But the most remarkable thing about the past 10 years is the point made graphically above. Day by day, week by week, more people have found their way online. And as the audience has grown, the big stories have kept coming, driving even more to join in.

Archives of past BBC News front pages can be found by using the Way Back Machine and on Matthew Somerville's website.
Once, well within living memory, it would be normal for many to find out the news from a weekly newspaper or from a cinema newsreel. Now even waiting for the morning papers would be considered quaint, especially since even they have started publishing stories online before making it to newsprint. The landscape has changed. The internet is, for a still-growing part of society, the primary way to find things out. The bank balance. The point above the Atlantic where a particular 747 is. What all your old friends are doing - at precisely this minute.

And of course the news. For which, perhaps, we might be permitted to say to all who have read, watched, heard or contributed to this website in its first 10 years, thank you.

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