The next version of the BBC iPlayer has been launched in beta today, with changes to the user experience, more personalisation, and integration with social networks. 

The iPlayer is as popular as ever, enjoying its best month to date in April 2010, with 123m requests for TV and radio programmes. I’ve been taking a look at some of the new features. 

beta iPlayer homepage

The homepage, shown above, now has what the press release calls ‘sliding draws’ which open to reveal more content in each of the categories; featured, most popular, friends, and ‘for you’. 

Other changes include a complete separation of TV and radio content to make it clearer for users, while you can also flick easily between channels while watching live TV. 

The best improvements for me are the personalisation features. I use iPlayer regularly and it should know what I like based on my viewing habits, so making use of this data to produce recommendations would have been a welcome step. 

Instead of simply learning from previous viewing habits though, it seems that the new iPlayer relies on users adding programmes into their ‘favourites’ folder, and then lines these up in a playlist for you. 

The introduction of social network integration is another welcome step; while viewing any programmes, you can click to recommend it on iPlayer, as well as sharing it on Twitter or Facebook via the recommend button: 

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The addition of user recommendations should also make content discovery much easier, as you can now read other users’ reviews of programmes, and see the most recommended in chart form. 

Other developments to come include the addition of links to programmes from ITV Player, 4OD, Clic, Demand Five and SeeSaw, meaning that the iPlayer can direct users to these other websites, while also making the iPlayer a more attractive destination.