A beta version of the BBC's newly improved iPlayer is now open to the public. It's been simplified and streamlined for a more intuitive user experience, and major new features bring a degree of social integration to the service.
The new version allows those signed in with their BBC IDs to tag shows as favourites, which are then grouped into a playlist, and make recommendations to mates. Partnerships have also been struck with Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to connect their Beeb and social networking accounts, therefore expanding their reach to include their entire friends/followers base.
There's a new "For You" section, which makes automated recommendations based on your favourites or viewing trends, and a TV listings section has been introduced to make it easier to find programmes, and watch those currently on air.
The redesign has also split TV and radio into two separate sections to makes things easier still.
Later in the summer, it's expected that iPlayer will also carry links to other video-on-demand websites, adding shows that appear on ITV Player, 4oD and SeeSaw, for instance. And, as Erik Huggers, Director of BBC Future Media & Technology, reveals on the BBC Blog, the site will eventually have an built-in "feature that will allow you to chat to friends".
Huggers is also keen to stress that the new features and design have been created in response to user feedback: "In the new beta version of the product we've launched today, we've listened to the audience and responded to their desire to have greater control over their own BBC iPlayer experience: now you can have a BBC built just for you", he says.
And having had a play, we at Pocket-lint think it's heading in the right direction. It certainly delivers on the promise of easier navigation, and we can see the social aspects taking off in time. However, the player itself is still Flash-based, so still no native iPad support. Yet.
Indeed, Eric Huggers has revealed that iPad support will be up and running in time for its UK launch: "iPad version of the beta iPlayer site will be up and running by Friday", tweets The Evening Standard's Mark Prigg.
It seems all bases are covered then.
Let us know what you think of the new service: Are you a VoD addict? Have you contributed to the record-breaking 123 million TV and radio streams iPlayer delivered in April 2010? What version do you prefer?