New BBC site is a digital sandbox for new ideas

The BBC has long striven to be if not at, then at least quite near to the cutting edge of digital media, rolling out services such as iPlayer and being quick to embrace the latest online technologies to keep its web offerings fresh.

Its latest launch, BBC Taster, follows these traditions; described as a new home for its experimental ideas, it's an online digital playground where the BBC can test out new stuff and get feedback.

The site's a curious mix of formats, broadly reflecting the BBC's output; and so alongside an interactive interview with Lena Dunham and hip hop duo Run the Jewels, you'll find Kneejerk, a comedy offering made out of online photos, videos and Vines, the delightful Kitchen Bitch – an interactive cookery show in which you pick the recipe – as well as the experimental BBC Shuffle, an epic timewaster that'll feed you random iPlayer videos and learn what you like from how long it takes you to click through to the next one.

The interactive Lena Dunham interview; what would you click?

Other unlikely features include BBC Weather Bot – send it a tweet and it'll give you a weather forecast – plus a project to help the BBC tag an enormous collection of old World Service Radio programmes, and an interactive World War I feature where you're asked to make life-or-death battlefield decisions.

The responsive site's a mix of CSS and JavaScript, with a bit of Flash thrown in as well

Made from a mix of CSS, JavaScript and not a little Flash (as you'll soon notice if you try to use the site on an iOS device), Taster is billed as a place for the BBC to try out new ways of telling stories, develop new talent, and put new technology through its paces, and if it feels a little rough around the edges at times then that's all part of the charm.

You can add cat heads to ace hip hoppers Run the Jewels because, well, internet, cats

While some of its content may feel like reheated leftovers that might work as a DVD extra but that you wouldn't expect to be broadcast on television, Taster at least enables you to sample a range of ideas that previously would have remained locked up in the BBC archives. Plus, its feedback system means great-but-leftfield ideas that might never have been greenlit may actually get to see light of day.

Tell us what you think of BBC Taster in the comments!

Words: Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for children's parties.

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