J K Rowling's Pottermore opens for all

J K Rowling's Pottermore opens for all

Pottermore, the website experience based on the seven Harry Potter books, opened on Saturday (14th April), with the number of Potter fans flocking to the site to register exceeding expectations. The site has been in closed beta since last year, ahead of the anticipated full launch early this year.

Pottermore chief executive Charlie Redmayne said the site had been "on-boarding" Harry Potter fans since 8am, having opened deliberately at a time when traffic levels would be low. "Most people are still in bed at that time on a Saturday morning, the US is asleep." Nevertheless, he said the numbers joining for the first time and those returning to the site were beyond what he'd expected, given the time the site rolled-out and the lack of pre-launch fanfare. "The starting point has been extraordinary."

But Redmayne assured that the site was built to withstand huge levels of traffic, having spent the past six months re-platforming the website and overhauling the infrastructure behind it. "This was a unique challenge: most websites build up users over time. But in the next 24 hours we will have millions of people signing on, and we need to be ready for that."

He declined to give out early figures, but said the rates of activity were not "anywhere near a level that we are concerned about", though the site was being monitored to ensure that it remains a good experience for those already logged in. He said the Pottermore team would be working to assess traffic levels during the day, and would stagger the number of users able to log-in if the site starts to become too busy. "We are setting caps, then testing, and then if it is all okay, we'll let more on, and keep growing. It is not just about people trying to get in, but how it is working for those already using the experience."

The site is still based around book 1, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, with the subsequent books to follow sequentially in the months ahead. The site had 1 million users during its beta period, with 97% of those visiting every page. He said those users who were returning to the site would not yet find the additional content they might want. "There is some more content, and some new functionality, but this is really just the beginning." He said book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, would follow next with this new content to come through in a matter of "weeks and months".

Redmayne told The Bookseller: "What we've been working on is getting a platform and infrastructure, which can cope with this unique challenge, but that technical team is now going to be all about getting the new content pulled through. It has all been about the platform up to now, but the content comes next."

Pottermore said the site would rapidly grow and develop, as new content, features and functionality are added. Users will be able to share their experiences and creativity as the storylines move on to subsequent books in the series in the months following opening.

The site also contains links to the Pottermore shop, which opened two weeks ago, as well as new material, written by the author J K Rowling. For example, Rowling reveals why Harry begins book one living at "number 4", Privet Drive. "For no very good reason, I have never been fond of the number four, which has always struck me as a rather hard and unforgiving number, which is why I slapped it on the Dursleys' front door."

Pottermore.com is opening in English (UK and US editions), French, Italian, German and Spanish.