I'll being by letting you know what's led to to this point in my thinking.
As any regular reader will be aware, I've been following the iPlayer developments fairly closely over the past few months. I've not really had a lot to say about the actual application, as I've yet to be able to use it. At home we have two Vista Computers, and the rest run either OSX (Tiger) or GNU/Linux Ubuntu.
Well recently, Ashley Highfield quoted on his blog that there were about 400-600 UK based Linux users that access the BBC website daily. Now, given that the Linux users are giving Mr Highfield such a hard time at the moment, it was playing into their hands, and they fought back. Quotes like "5% of all UK based Linux BBC WebSite views take place at our organisation" were passed around mailing lists, and people were generally either outraged/amused by Mr Highfield's quotation.
Today, he decided to retract his original figure, saying that the figure represented the """"""""""""""""""""GET QUOTE"""""""""""""""". Well this is a bit of a bummer really - as Mr Highfield has more ammunition to use. "This is still only 0.8% of all BBC website viewers."
Now the above two quotes are all I'm going to mention on this. As stated by Benjamin Horst (see blogroll), there are few accurate ways of measuring how many users access online content. We don't know the market share of openoffice.org for that exact reason. Most web-statistics can't negotiate NAT addresses, therefore what may appear to be one IP address (therefore counted as one computer) may be simply the public IP for a hundred-member company.
With the iPlayer debate, the one place that the opposition always seems to be steered is interoperability and open source. "An iPlayer that fulfills the aims of its critics has to be an open source iPlayer." NOT SO!
This is the one thing that annoys me the most about the whole situation. Open Standards and Open Source (and Free Software for that matter) are three distinctly different things. Unfortunately I don't know enough about the debate to provide you with more detail, but see Matt Lee (blogroll) for better information on Open Source/Free Software.
The path the BBC (and other content providers) should take is one of open standards. Even if the BBC were to create the standards themselves (something that is not beneath them, even with recent budget cuts) then there would be widespread support. The only time the BBC shouldn't create there own is when there are already standards out there to follow.
Standards. It's what it's about. It's where it's at. It's not about Open Source versus the rest in some pan-galactic battle for control of "Robin Hood" and a bit of "Top Gear," it's about enabling interoperability. If the BBC followed/created openly published standards, then it would in effect pass the buck onto the software makers to create client software that could connect to these standards. Instead the BBC have to publish three different versions of the same application.
It's not just the iPlayer that has this flaw, and not just the BBC. I've recently had a few headaches coding WebSites for IE, Opera, Safari and Firefox. They all have little quirks, and break the standards (or implement them differently due to ambiguity/omission). Given that so much is going digital it is the responsibility of our current generation to make sure the foundations are sound before moving forward. Imagine the internet without a standard protocol for network communication. It'd be like the inter-"moth-eaten-sock" - holes all over the place and failing to fulfil the reason it was created...
Well that's what we face if the standards aren't published.
Facebook can do it, Google are doing it... BBC... do it!