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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Sky Interactive’s E-Business Portal

On Thursday a colleague attended the launch conference for Sky Interactive’s e-business portal initiative. It’ll allow site owners to reach the 7.7 million UK homes (20 million people) subscribed to Sky’s digital network via improved set-top box browsing features.

Sites will be built with WTVML (developed from WML, everyone’s favourite pointless hypertext format), and you have to use a wtv subdomain (e.g., so it’ll be separate from the ‘normal’ web. Yeah, it throws the whole idea of device independence out of the window rather than tackling the tricky issues involved in using existing web technologies and ensuring developers apply them sensibly to the medium (plus potential user confusion if the same URL offers different content, etc.).

Sky Interactive e-business portal screenshotBut from what I’ve read so far, this isn’t just another locked-down ‘walled garden’ for the big players — anyone will be able to create a site for free and get it included in the portal. Sky will make money by selling SkyKeys (keywords typed using the number pad; around £2500 each per year, ouch) and taking a cut of payments for premium content (and no doubt also by charging for premium placement in the portal). The biggest downside is that downloads will be via a dial-up connection for the foreseeable future, making it slow and forcing users to pay for the call (maybe Sky gets a cut of that cost too?).

If it really does turn out to be free and open it could be a huge step forward for both interactive TV and the internet in the UK, bringing new people online and tapping into the web’s talent and diversity. There’s a big commercial opportunity for web developers too, as tens of thousands of businesses will want WTVML sites, and designing for a non-web audience will be an interesting challenge.

I’ve not spotted a go-live date, but the beta programme has more details and is accepting registrations. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on things and will get a WTVML version of this site online as soon as possible to test the new system.


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