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h2g2's front page on 16 November 2013
Web address .com.h2g2www
Slogan The Guide to Life, The Universe and Everything.
Commercial? No
Type of site Internet encyclopedia project
Registration Open
Available in English
Content license Authors retained copyright but granted BBC a non-exclusive licence to distribute
Owner Not Panicking Ltd
Created by Douglas Adams
Launched 28 April 1999 (1999-04-28)
Current status Active

H2g2 is a British-based collaborative online encyclopedia project engaged in the construction of, in its own words, "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.[1] It was founded by Adams in 1999 and was run by the BBC between 2001 and 2011.[2][3][4] It is often compared to WorldHeritage but there are differences between the sites.

The intent was to create an Earth-focused guide that would allow 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.[5]

The content of the project is written by registered "Researchers" on its website.[6] 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.[7] The Edited Guide includes both traditional encyclopaedic subjects and more idiosyncratic offerings, and while articles in the Edited Guide sometimes aim for a slightly humorous style,[8] most are correct and well-written treatment of their subject matter by virtue of the Peer Review process. Every article has an associated discussion area which allows for multiple threads, called "Conversations".[9]


  • History 1
    • Italics 1.1
    • Clubs and societies 1.2
  • Terms and conditions 2
  • DNA 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


H2g2 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.[10] "H2g2" is an abbreviation for the title. The site was a runner-up for Best Community Site in the awards in 2000.[11]

Like other dot-com companies, Adams' company TDV ran into financial difficulties towards the end of 2000 and eventually ceased operations.[4] In January 2001, the management of the site was taken over by the BBC, and moved to (then known as BBCi).[3]

21 April 2005 marked the launch of h2g2 Mobile, an edition of the guide produced for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and mobile phones that could access the internet, so that people could read h2g2 entries while on the move.[7][12] 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.[10] An earlier attempt at a WAP phone based version of h2g2 started in December 2000 only to end when the BBC took over the site in January 2001.[13]

The site was redesigned for the BBC by Aerian Studios in 2011,[14] bringing it in line with the general appearance of other BBC websites, while maintaining a degree of the site's old character.[15]

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.[16] On 21 June 2011, it was announced the winning bid was a joint bid put together by three parties: Robbie Stamp, h2g2c2 ('The h2g2 Community Consortium') and the owners of Noesis Systems Ltd (Brian Larholm and Alyson Larholm) [17] 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.[18]

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" The post-BBC version of the site went live on 16 October 2011.


During BBC ownership the Italics (technically 'the Editors'), the in-house editors of h2g2, were the only people who are paid to work on the site. They monitored the content of the Edited Guide and oversaw the general development of community life. They are named for the way their names appear in conversation threads, in bold italics, to keep people from impersonating them. There are other informal nicknames for the editors such as 'The Powers That Be', 'The Towers', 'The Powers in the Towers' and 'Pisa People' (again, after the slanting nature of their on-screen nicknames).[19]

Clubs and societies

H2g2 has numerous unofficial clubs and societies, set up and maintained by Researchers.[20]

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.

The House Rules prohibit various things, including racism, "hard-core" swearing, spamming, flooding, "otherwise objectionable" material, and spitting.[21]


The software for h2g2—and its related 'sister' communities in the BBC (now all closed), such as "606", "Film Network", "Action Network", "Comedy Soup", "Memoryshare" and "Collective"—is affectionately known as DNA, after the initials of author and site founder Douglas Noel 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 this technology, there was "Ripley", which was named after the character from the film Aliens, in homage to the quote "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."[22] Before that there was a technology which subsequently gained the retronym Llama, due to the code holding the site together being written mostly in Perl, the standard introductory textbook for which, Learning Perl, has a picture of a llama on the front cover.[23]

Adams was involved in the website in its early days.[24] His account name was DNA, and his user number was 42, a reference to the famous 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.[2][7]

See also


  1. ^ "Web watch; New favourites". Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). 7 May 2005. p. 5. 
  2. ^ a b Jackson, Andrew (May 2009). "Web wonder". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. p. 19. 
  3. ^ a b "Hitchhiker's Guide web site moves to BBC". Telecomworldwire. 23 February 2001. 
  4. ^ a b Tomlinson, Heather (4 March 2001). "Hitchhiker's Website Goes Home To Auntie". Independent (UK) (London). pp. 3 (Business section). 
  5. ^ "House Rules for h2g2". 19 February 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  - We've never allowed Researchers to advertise on h2g2, but being a part of the BBC makes it even more important that the editorial independence of the Guide is not threatened by people filling the Guide with adverts. Writing entries that review or criticise commercial products are obviously fine, as long as they're balanced, but adverts aren't.
  6. ^ Hurrell, Nick (13 October 2000). "Nick Hurrell, the Chief Executive of M&C Saatchi and the Chairman of EMCSAATCHI, looks at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Online". Campaign. pp. 14 (Private Surf section). 
  7. ^ a b c Sherwin, Adam (April 2005). "A galactic fund for fascinating facts for the mobile Earthling". The Times (London). p. 11. 
  8. ^ McMurray, Sandy (15 August 2001). "Sites for Beginners, Students and Clones". The Toronto Sun. pp. 53 (Connect section).  - Another site, created by Douglas Adams, comes at the encyclopedia idea from a different, funnier angle.
  9. ^ "Thanks for Registering with h2g2 - Welcome!". 14 October 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  - At the bottom of most pages on h2g2 you'll find a conversation area.
  10. ^ a b Turnbull, Giles (22 September 1999). "Sci-fi Guide Could Become Fact". Press Association. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Matt (13 July 2000). "The Awards 2000". The Mirror (UK). p. 14. 
  12. ^ "h2g2 Mobile Information Centre". 10 March 2005. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "Life, the Universe and Everything Mobile". The Digital Village. 22 December 1999. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  14. ^ "H2G2 Refresh: design and technical challenges". 21 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  - this week the refreshed version of the BBC's long running community site H2G2 was launched.
  15. ^ "Talking Point - h2g2 Redesign". 12 May 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  - As we've already mentioned we're now in the process of redesigning h2g2.
  16. ^ "BBC News - BBC to cut online budget by 25%".  
  17. ^ "Tuesday 21 June 2011: The future of H2G2 - the Successful Bid". 21 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  18. ^ "Wednesday 31 June 2011: H2G2 Leaving The BBC Soon!". 31 August 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "h2Jargon". 15 September 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  20. ^ "Clubs and Societies". 21 November 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  21. ^ "House Rules for h2g2". 19 February 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  22. ^ "DNA Version History". 19 July 2000. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  - Since Ripley was a complete rewrite of h2g2 in C++, we felt this quote rather summed up what we were doing. It makes a great slogan, too: Ripley: It's the only way to be sure.
  23. ^ "DNA Version History". 19 July 2000. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  - The first versions of the h2g2 site were written in Perl, and the cover of O'Reilly's excellent book Learning Perl has a llama on the front.
  24. ^ "Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001". 28 April 1999. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 

Further reading

  • h2g2 Website
  • h2g2's edited entry of WorldHeritage
  • Not Panicking Ltd
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