Website history

We've had a website for a bit. In fact, you're currently reading v7 of our lovely site, which means there have been at least 6 versions of the site before it. Here are some pictures we've found of the older sites, and a little of our other history to put it in context.

Virgin Radio launched on 1215AM on 30th April 1993 at 12.15pm, and added our 105.8FM frequency on 5th September 1995 at 6.00am. The first voice was that of Richard Branson, followed by Richard Skinner; the first song was "Born to be wild" in an exclusive version sung for us by INXS.

Image : Version 1

Virgin Radio was the first European radio station to stream 24-hours a day on the internet (in Real Audio 2!), and this was our first website - launched on 7 March 1996 - at 10.30am to journalists, and 12.15pm to the rest of the world, according to an old memo we found. The memo also requests that the journalists have "fresh coffee, water, cold drinks, plus platters of bagels, pastries, and croissants".

The website was designed by the design agency AKQA, and built by (apparently their first website outside their own). This homepage was actually a 60k Java applet (which meant that it took about two years to load on a 14k4 modem), but the helicopter blades actually span, and the front door opened and shut, which was all very important. A few interesting facts from this: firstly, the loudspeaker on our current 'listen now' link (at the top of this page), (and that of all websites from v4 onwards), comes from this original website; and we still have a helipad on our map of the building. Apparently, changes to this website were done in - wait for it - Frontpage, and there was no consistent layout to any page. Ah, the heady days of the interweb.

While the screenshot says "", the press release said "". At the time, we owned both.

On 6th May 1997, Capital Radio Group entered an agreement to merge with Virgin Radio. The merger was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (who reported in January 1998). Meanwhile, television personality Chris Evans, who started the breakfast show on 13th October 1997, acquired the station on 9th December 1997, and we became part of the Ginger Media Group.


Here's Version 2 - with Harriet Scott on-air, and some funky new screen font that really doesn't work very well. (We've doctored this slightly - it had a search box on the right-hand side, and underneath 'goodies' there was probably an advert).

We launched a Quicktime stream (confusingly called "Quicktime TV") on 21 July 1996 - and, seven days later...

Image : Version 3

This is v3, which launched on 27th July 1999, towards the end of its life in 2000. Notable on the site at this time was a slightly odd topless picture of presenter Harriet Scott (she's holding CDs), a link to vote on Pete Mitchell's hair (whatever you had to do there we've no idea), and, golly, links to digital postcards (which were all the thing in 2000).

In October of 1999, we launched the UK's first "interactive media player" - the forerunner of the Virgin Radio Player you see today. Since we were owned by Ginger at the time, we christened it the "Ginger Interactive Media Player", or "Gimp", which is still the internal name for the software that controls much of its functionality. We launched it by dressing up one of our developers in a gimp costume.

On 13 January 2000, the Scottish Media Group (SMG) took over Ginger (a process which was approved by the Radio Authority on 14 March of that year).

On the 26th June 2000, we launched The Virgin Radio Groove. The first song played was the Jackson 5's ABC.

Photo : Mr Jelly & Cow

You'll spot in v3, and early versions of v4, a little link with a goldfish in it on the top navigation bar. This was a link to a webcam on Virgin Radio Online's "Mr Jelly", a little goldfish seen here with a bovine friend of his. Mr Jelly was, for a long time, the second or third most popular page on the website; he had his own email address, and enjoyed replying to peoples' emails (normally "Don't ask me, I'm just a fish. Would you like a cup of tea?"). When leaving our old home on the sixth floor, we took the opportunity to give Mr Jelly a new home with our then music librarian. We think he's still going strong (though there were actually quite a few Mr Jellys. Showbiz, eh?)

Image : Version 4

This is version 4, on July 6, 2000. Spot the promotion of V2000, and a new section that we never got the hang of called 'Magazine'. We dropped that when we moved to v5, though "The Guide" is probably a direct descendant of that. This entire website was designed in-house by a student called Rick, who decided one day to redesign the whole thing on a whim. Mind, he did a good job.

On 25 January 2001, we launched a new music station on DAB in London called Liquid. On 28 June 2001, Virgin Radio confirmed in a press release that "Chris Evans is no longer a broadcaster at the station". The Steve Penk breakfast show started on 9 July. In June 2003, we launched our Ogg Vorbis streams, following the BBC's lead into open-source streaming.

Image : Version 5

Here's v5, also known as "wolf", launched in November 2003. This was also designed in-house by a student called Rick, though he wasn't a student by the time he designed this: we'd hired him. (He's since worked for the BBC, Yahoo, and Nova 96.9 in Sydney).

Liquid ceased broadcasting on 27 May 2004, and was replaced by a new service, Virgin Radio Classic Rock. (The first song played there was Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild - the original of the first song played on Virgin Radio - and the first voice was Richard Skinner.)

Image : Version 6

And here's v6, which admittedly looks very similar to v5, but actually, it's not. V6 used CSS, as opposed to the tables used in v5. There's a thrill.

On the 5th September 2005, we launched new-rock station Virgin Radio Xtreme.

Image : Version 7

And, finally, here's v7. In actual fact, this isn't, exactly, v7. This is a mockup of it, put together by our long-haired but otherwise quite excellent designer; and, when we initially wrote this page, this was the only front page we had, since he's not finished making it. Clearly, you can see the latest version of this on our own front page here: we launched this on 6th September 2006.

On 12 April 2007, SMG announced an IPO of Virgin Radio.


Graphic : Virgin Radio logos
We're on our fourth version of the Virgin Radio logo. The 1993 original, using spot-colour and the Virgin script known internally as "Son of Tick", was given more pronounced shading and an outline by the time we launched on FM in London, which is why the 1215AM stuff disappeared. 2000 brought a star with proper 3D shading and round points, and a new Virgin script, known as "Blob". (The Virgin script names come from the top-right of the 'V'.) The launch of our v7 website also heralded the launch of the new 2006 logo with the modernised Virgin script, which hasn't got a name but we're going to call it "Will", for no other reason that we think it needs a name. Let's see if this catches on.

The Virgin Radio URL has changed once in our history. We started with, but as Virgin's radio ambitions grew, and as we were sold to SMG plc, we changed to use (from v4 onwards). You'll find other Virgin radio stations if you follow the .com domain, scattered across the globe from Thailand to the US and more.
Photo: The Digital Media team

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