The much-discussed new version of the BBC’s iPlayer, which allows users to watch television shows and listen to radio programs up to a week after they’ve been broadcast, has finally been released. It’s been expected after a number of development blogs that this new version, iPlayer 3, would place greater emphasis on social interaction, and expectations have been met.
Primarily, the new iPlayer offers fairly seamless integration of Facebook and Twitter to allow users to share what they’re enjoying. This follows a growing trend towards user recommendations as tastemakers. (Apple’s Ping recently joined this fray, but Netflix dropped out of the competition.)
Furthermore, iPlayer users who register for accounts can customize their iPlayer experience and save favorite programs, which in turn can be automatically updated when new episodes air. While this is not a particularly social feature, knowing when your favorite shows are out is a way to keep up with water cooler conversation.
James Hewines, BBC iPlayer product leader, explained on his blog “The main theme here is personalisation. We wanted to connect BBC iPlayer up with the users’ online interactions with friends – to bring a social dimension to watching and listening.”
But iPlayer users should not expect a fully-featured set of Facebook and Twitter tools. While it’s possible to share content and update your statuses, you can only interact via iPlayer with friends who are also on Facebook and/or Twitter, and who also have an iPlayer user account. Since the magic of iPlayer 3′s ability to introduce you to new and interesting programs lies in peer recommendations and suggestions chosen for you based on what you’ve watched and favorited, the name of the game is to sign up for a BBC iPlayer account, period.