Grrrrr. My instincts told me not to mess with the new BBC iPlayer. But what the heck. I love the BBC, and I wanted this to work. Kind of like how I used to want Bob Dylan to sing on key, and could more or less ‘will it’ to happen. Kind of like how I used to want RealNetworks to succeed. Now the only thing I want (as far as new media technology is concerned) is a simple and robust end-user experience. So the sad ‘joke’ in the headline is that I fear that the BBC has suffered from its long-term association with Real, which for a long time bugged me with its over-complex download/install/signup ‘procedure’. This is ironic, given that iPlayer is dependent on Windows Media Player (rather than Real Player) underneath – all the more painful then, as it now appears to be the worst of multiple worlds.
So what went wrong? How do I know? I merely struggled for a while, and have temporarily given up. Here’s the lowdown:
I can forgive the Windows XP dependency (just).
I can forgive the Internet Explorer dependency (just – this one actually caught me out briefly).
I can forgive the Windows Media Player dependency (just – but aaargh, during installation it forced me to branch off to a separate Media Player update, although that side of things is normally pretty up-to-date on my machines).
I can forgive the special and unmemorable login/password combo needed to unlock the iPlayer.
I can forgive the special proxy settings required to get past my corporate firewall.
[Man, I am one forgiving son-of-a-gun. You think I was kidding about wanting Bob Dylan to sing on key?]
I can understand (just) why I need a separate BBC.co.uk membership ID, but when it comes to mandatory double-login to ‘do the business’ (iPlayer and BBC), my forgiving mood starts running out.
When the most salient feature of any mouse-rolloever graphic on the site is the number of days left before the rights to any media clip expire, then I start thinking I’m living in a time warp. It’s 2007 for goodness sake. And the second most salient feature is some tag that is not strongly relevant, like ‘Northern Scotland’ (for a Mountain programme) or the date of the programme, used as a tag.
When the ‘automatic proxy fixer’ says it is modifying my REGISTRY, my forgiving mood has long since expired.
When the proxy settings appear to ‘test’ OK but no downloads ever succeed, I start getting cross.
[UPDATE: aha, now my first two downloads have suddenly succeeded after a long stretch of “0%”. That’s the good news. The bad news is that going ‘full screen’ crashed the player.]
Forget about ‘why would I ever watch any of these clips on my PC anyway’ – I just might, and I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
But the download/install/signup procedure is too arcane by a factor of three; the overemphasis on glitzy graphics at the expense of easy indexing/search is too annoying (the alphabetic list is chunked like that of a PlayStation or mobile phone, which is fine for certain devices, but seriously annoying on a more flexible PC: I suppose this is ultimately designed for a ‘sit back living room’ experience, so I’ll suspend judgement on this element for now); the proxy settings are simultaneously ‘too smart’ and ‘too ineffective’ (I can handle one or the other… e.g. Skype is smart AND effective, QuickTime is dumb, but you can make it effective with manual modification); the heavy date-expiry-dependency is both intimidating and confusing.
Yes, I can understand why they have to do all this. But no, I cannot forgive the arrival of such a poor user experience by such a powerhouse organization at such a late date on the Internet-media-timeline.