BBC Online, formerly known as BBCi, is the BBC's online service. It is a large network of websites including such high-profile sites as BBC News and Sport, the on-demand video and radio services co-branded BBC iPlayer, the children's sites CBBC and CBeebies, and learning services such as Bitesize. The BBC has had an online presence supporting its TV and radio programmes and web-only initiatives since April 1994, but did not launch officially until 28 April 1997, following government approval to fund it by TV licence fee revenue as a service in its own right. Throughout its history, the online plans of the BBC have been subject to competition and complaint from its commercial rivals, which has resulted in various public consultations and government reviews to investigate their claims that its large presence and public funding distorts the UK market.
The website has gone through several branding changes since it was launched. Originally named BBC Online, it was then rebranded as BBCi (which itself was the brand name for interactive TV services) before being named bbc.co.uk. It was then renamed BBC Online again in 2008, however the service uses the branding "BBC". The web-based service of the BBC is one of the most visited websites (55th most visited according to Alexa in January 2013) and the world's largest news website. As of 2007, it contained over two million pages.
On 26 February 2010 The Times claimed that Mark Thompson, then Director General of the BBC, proposed that the BBC's web output should be cut by 50%, with online staff numbers and budgets reduced by 25% in a bid to scale back BBC operations and allow commercial rivals more room. On 2 March 2010, the BBC reported that it will cut its website spending by 25% and close BBC 6 Music and Asian Network. On 24 January 2011, the confirmed cuts of 25% were announced leaving a £34 million shortfall. This resulted in the closure of several sites, including BBC Switch, BBC Blast, 6-0-6, and the announcement of plans to sell on the Douglas Adams created site h2g2.