Due to budget cuts, the BBC has announced plans to “dispose of” the H2G2 website—a community-based Internet encyclopedia, created in 1999 (two years before Wikipedia!) by Douglas Adams and based on the idea of an electronic encyclopedia about “life, the universe, and everything” as depicted in Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels. The Beeb originally bought it in 2001 after Adams’s company failed in the dot-com crash, and in 2005 produced a mobile version for smartphones and PDAs.
BBC Online Social Media Executive Nick Reynolds hastens to explain that the BBC does not want to close H2G2, but is rather looking to pass it on to a new owner who will keep it, and the community that grew up around it, up and running.
I’ll be involved in this process. For me an important part of it will be how any prospective new owner of H2G2 intends to deal with the H2G2 community and safeguard the community’s interests as we try to find a new home for the site. H2G2 is the community and without the community the site would die. If it is to have a future outside the BBC the community needs to be maintained and nurtured and I’ll be doing my best to see that happens.
One enthusiast proposes the formation of an H2G2 Community Consortium (with a Google group for discussion of the project), in the hopes of being able to buy and run the site themselves. I agree that it would be a pity if the site were to go under, and wish them the best of luck.
In the 1990s, the Hitchhiker’s Guide series became one of the first commercial e-books (created as a Hypercard stack by Criterion founder Bob Stein). Adams himself was always a great booster of e-books, and was excited by the idea that he might well live to see this gadget he conceived of as science fiction become reality. (Alas, he missed it by just a few years.)