The h2g2 website is a British-based collaborative online encyclopedia project. It describes itself as "an unconventional guide to life, the universe, and everything", in the spirit of the fictional publication The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from the science fiction comedy series of the same name by Douglas Adams. It was founded by Adams in 1999 and was run by the BBC between 2001 and 2011. The intent is to create an Earth-focused guide that allows members to share information about their geographic area and the local sites, activities and businesses, to help people decide where they want to go and what they may find when they get there. It has grown to contain subjects from restaurants and recipes, to quantum theory and history. Explicit advertising of businesses was forbidden when the site was run by the BBC, but customer reviews were permitted. The content of the project is written by registered "Researchers" on its website. Articles written by Researchers form the "Guide" as a whole, with an "Edited Guide" being steadily created out of factual articles that have been peer reviewed via the "Peer Review" system. The Edited Guide includes both traditional encyclopaedic subjects and more idiosyncratic offerings, and articles in the Edited Guide sometimes aim for a slightly humorous style.
The h2g2 site was founded on 28 April 1999 as the "Earth edition" of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the author of the series, Douglas Adams, and his friends and colleagues at The Digital Village. "h2g2" is an abbreviation for the title as well as part of the url. The site was a runner-up for Best Community Site in the Yell.com awards in 2000. Like other dot-com companies, Adams' company TDV ran into financial difficulties towards the end of 2000 and eventually ceased operations. In January 2001, the management of the site was taken over by the BBC, and moved to bbc.co.uk. 21 April 2005 marked the re-launch of h2g2 Mobile, an edition of the guide produced for PDAs and mobile phones that could access the internet, so that people could read h2g2 entries while on the move. This was done because people wanted h2g2 to be much like the Hitchhiker's Guide described in the books — a mobile, electronic device that anyone could read from anywhere. An earlier incarnation of h2g2 Mobile was a WAP phone based version of h2g2. Announced at First Tuesday in London on 14 December 1999, it became the most trafficked WAP site in Europe until it was closed down by the BBC when it took over the site in January 2001. h2g2 Mobile was closed by the BBC as it then believed that its license conditions did not allow it to deliver any service over a telephone system. The site was redesigned for the BBC by Aerian Studios in 2011, bringing it in line with the general appearance of other BBC websites, while maintaining a degree of the site's old character. On 24 January 2011, the BBC announced cuts of 25% to its online budget, resulting in a £34 million less investment into the site. A number of sites were to be closed, including BBC Switch, BBC Blast and 6-0-6. As part of this exercise, the BBC chose to sell h2g2. On 21 June 2011, it was announced the winning bid was a joint bid put together by three parties: Robbie Stamp, h2g2c2 and the owners of Lycos Chat On 31 August 2011, it was announced h2g2 was sold to Not Panicking Ltd, a company founded by Robbie Stamp, Brian Larholm and Alyson Larholm, as well as The h2g2 Community Consortium. On 3 October 2011, the BBC incarnation of h2g2 closed, leaving only an announcement reading "H2G2 has now left the BBC. The new owners of H2G2 are currently preparing the site for relaunch. Soon you will find The Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything at www.h2g2.com" The post-BBC version of the site went live on 16 October 2011.
Terms and conditions
To contribute to the site it is necessary to register and to agree to the h2g2 "House Rules" and the general Not Panicking Ltd Terms and Conditions. Registered users are called Researchers. Researchers retain the copyright to their articles, but grant Not Panicking Ltd a non-exclusive license to reproduce their work in all formats.
Part of the software for h2g2 is known as DNA, after the initials of author and site founder Douglas Adams. The DNA technology was introduced a few months after the BBC takeover and is still used for BBC blogs, messageboards and commenting systems. Before that there was a technology which was written mostly in Perl. Adams was involved in the website in its early days. His account name was DNA, and his user number was 42, a reference to the joke in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. Adams's legacy is still felt on h2g2, though it is not a fan site.