On Sunday, March 10, WWE re-launched their website. A series of decisions have been made to severely alter the experience. This appears to be a major relaunch, as opposed to the TMZ-like refresh that occurred last summer (which was more a coat of paint). Here is a rundown of all the changes.
Brand new URL-system:
I link to WWE.com quite often, because it is a primary source of information. Unfortunately, almost every single thing I’ve linked to is now broken. I linked to this Shawn Michaels story only a few days ago, but the URL is already busted.
Here is the old URL for the Shawn Michaels article: http://bit.ly/xxS9sn
Here is the new URL: http://bit.ly/xLWzUC
Changing the URLs in this manner makes it basically impossible for me (and anyone who’s ever linked to anything) to fix this problem. It looks like WWE.com has changed their permalink structure from numerals to subject matter, which is a pretty “wordpress” thing to do, if you ask me.
Bigger pictures, multiple-page articles
WWE.com is using another trick of breaking up articles into multiple pages in order to garner more traffic. They’ve also increased the size of photos, but they’re still shackled to shitty slideshows. There still aren’t permalinks to any one photo, and now the slideshow arrows don’t fade out anymore.
A deep archive and search system
The most noticeable improvement to the site is its search and archive system. “Related article” lists abound on the side and bottom of everything, and the search box leads to real results now. Searching by superstar leads to not only photo and video sets but also a chronilogical list of articles that mention them. The Superstar pages look great, too, making each wrestler look like an action hero. Timeline is also nice, but it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to do.
A greater focus on live appearances and dates, interactivity
Something that wasn’t as apparent on the site before was where you could actually find WWE superstars, in not only live appearances but house shows, too. Now, scroll over the “superstars” button and the entire left-side of the screen is filled with appearance dates. Nice.
They’ve also allowed comments on WWE.com articles. It’s not every article. This is interesting, because they’ve disabled comments on Youtube. To comment, you sign in using Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Yahoo, and go nuts. It’s too early to tell how curated the comments will get, or if they’ll let the Universe go wild (my bet: this will be the first new feature to die).
WWE Greatest Matches
WWE Greatest Matches is basically gone. There appears to be no place to pay them money to see vast quantities of full video. Instead, a huge amount of video content is now essentially free, if it’s in a wholly different form. Videos are still in flash, but at least no entire sections of the site are flash anymore. Instead of being able to watch an entire episode from MSG in 85, there’s probably a video that gives you highlights of the main event. There are so many little summary videos of things now.
Video Playlists are how videos are organized now, and they’re curated by subject, event, and company. For instance, here’s a video playlist of matches between The Rock and Steve Austin. You’ll notice these videos are roughly two minutes long. These videos don’t show the beginning or ending of these matches. It’s very confusing, actually, until you realize they’re opening up a network pretty soon and they probably only want one place to get full-episode content.
I’m fine with that, of course. I’ve always thought that WWE should streamline. But it’s sure interesting that they’re touting a mountain of video content as a new WWE.com feature when most of the content is tiny slices of matches.
Seemingly random region-blocking
There are, actually, lots of full matches on WWE.com, but if you’re outside the US, good luck watching any of them. Region-locking is frustrating, but it’s even more frustrating when last week I could watch this stuff on Greatest Matches, but now that it’s free I can’t.
The region-blocking seems to go into effect as soon as you try to begin watching a full match. Clips and scenes seem to work everywhere. It’s a baffling decision. I understand reasons why they can’t just put up full episodes of Raw and Smackdown (due to TV licensing deals), but why are all PPV matches, both new and classic, blocked? Why are all WCW and ECW matches blocked? Those TV deals absolutely don’t exist anymore, and nobody but WWE has any say on how they air. If you live in the US, you can watch Flair vs Steamboat from Wrestlewar 89 in full, but nobody else can.
This is what WWE.com says about it:
The ultimate source for the most epic confrontations and unforgettable matches in WWE history – is now totally FREE! From now on, access to WWE’s most colossal confrontations requires absolutely no subscription cost.
That’s nice, for people who can actually see it.
I guess we’ll see
WWE.com has been completely redesigned every 2 years or so since it began in the mid-90s. This new relaunch presents a challenge for guys like me, who used the site as a primary source for news and material. Do I continue linking to them, knowing that at any time they might change things?
The region-blocking bugs me, not because I can’t see things, but because depending on the month, sometimes I can. The inconsistency is crazy.
I don’t like the link-breaking, but that’s not really WWE’s problem. It’s not their job to make my job easy.
But the site does look much nicer than it did before, and the new features are both welcome and novel. Hopefully they don’t throw it all away in a year.