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What is BBC iPlayer Shuffle?

The BBC is constantly updating and tweaking iPlayer to make it easier for you to find what you want to watch. But what about those times when you don’t know what you want? Enter iPlayer Shuffle

The latest development in the BBC’s quest to improve iPlayer is Shuffle, a Last.fm-ish feature that attempts to mould itself to your viewing habits. 

It’s a feature that’s very much in beta right now, available for you to try out on the BBC Taster site. Given that the BBC has placed much emphasis on content discovery in the past when talking about iPlayer updates, it seems natural that Shuffle will be baked into iPlayer for good. 

Until such a time, here’s what iPlayer Shuffle is, how it works and how you can get it. 

What is BBC iPlayer Shuffle? 

iPlayer Shuffle is a new recommendations and discovery system. It starts by playing a random stream from iPlayer and invites you to either skip it or keep watching. 

If you watch a programme for more than 30 seconds, Shuffle takes that as a ‘like’ and will then serve up similar content later. If you click ‘Next’ before then, it’ll try to find something from iPlayer that’s more suited to your tastes. 

What is BBC iPlayer Shuffle?
How iPlayer Shuffle currently looks on Chrome

How can I get iPlayer Shuffle? 

Right now, iPlayer Shuffle is only available on the BBC Taster website. There are no plans to build Shuffle into the basic iPlayer just yet, but if it proves popular that could change. 

BBC Taster is a new site that the BBC has built to act as a kind of public testing bed for potential future services. iPlayer Shuffle is one of the many things out there that could be picked up and turned into a full-time feature of BBC iPlayer. 

To get it working, you’ll need to use a web browser that supports Adobe Flash. So far we’ve only tested it out on Chrome and Firefox. 

Minimum bandwidth requirements aren’t stated by the BBC but it should be the same as regular iPlayer – 2Mbps. 

Flashdance: Shuffle only works in Flash-compatible desktop browsers for now

Doesn’t BBC iPlayer already feature recommendations? 

It does, but there’s two key differences with Shuffle. The first is that Shuffle is personalises content more or less in real time. 

The BBC has used anonymous data based on what most people watch to power iPlayer’s generic recommendations. What Shuffle does is build a channel that’s been made to measure for you in particular, rather than everyone in general.  

iPlayer Shuffle also works on the premise that it only needs to get a few likes and dislikes from you for it to construct a full channel. 

BBC producer and developer Libby Miller said: “We are regularly asked for lots of information about our likes and dislikes by companies, and the argument is that giving more of that sort of information improves the recommendations and the service they give us. We wanted to know the reverse: how little information do we need from you, in order to find something you might like?” 

The idea is to deliver a personalised service in a way that doesn’t collect vast amounts of data on individual people. 

When is BBC iPlayer Shuffle launching full time? 

That’s impossible to say right now. It’ll depend firstly on iPlayer Shuffle being popular enough to warrant being built into iPlayer proper (or launched as a separate service). BBC developers would need to test the service further ahead of working on integrating it into iPlayer on desktops and then figure out a rollout to mobile and TV platforms including Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media, YouView and presumably Freeview Connect too

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