To the infuriation of commercial rivals, the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation has unveiled an own-brand internet search engine, allowing surfers to search the web from within bbc.co.uk.
Co-developed with Google, the search engine is being hyped as an independent alternative to those of companies such as E-Spotting and Overture, which provide prominent placement in return for a fee.
“People are wary of being marketed at and having stuff pushed onto them,” declared Katherine Everett, the Corporation’s head of new media. “The BBC is in a unique position to help people feel comfortable on the web.”
To support its claims, the Beeb released a survey showing that 80% of people think existing search engines could be improved and 70% were unaware some offerings charged for better placement.
The BBC’s search engine is designed to be especially useful for online newcomers, providing results via Google that are screened for unwholesome pages and include sites within the Corporation’s own online network.
Refuting the usual allegations that the BBC has no business spending public money on services already provided by the private sector, director of BBC New Media Ashley Highfield argues that the search engine fills a genuine hole in the market.
“It is quite clear that the current search marketplace doesn't have the needs of internet users at its heart,” he said. “The BBC, with its 80 years of know-how and editorial expertise, is ideally placed to provide a UK-focused search engine that will not be tainted by paid-for results.
“Given that 90% of respondents to the independent survey stated they would use the BBC search engine, and that a similar number said they would prefer unbiased search, it is evidently something that people want.”
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff