Introduction to WebTV

May 13, 1999

Making your Web site WebTV-compatible gives you several benefits:

  • Increase your site’s audience. There are about 800,000 WebTV-based units in use, with over two users per system. In terms of hours spent online, WebTV Networks, Inc. is the nation's second-largest internet service provider.
  • Increase your site’s effectiveness. Your site is probably already compatible with the WebTV browser. If it's not, most fixes are fairly easy and quick.
  • Reach influential early users. A fast-growing medium like the Web benefits those that make an early and enthusiastic commitment. WebTV users are quick to note good and bad Web experiences and share them with others. By making your site work well on the WebTV browser, you’ll benefit from WebTV’s ongoing growth.

If you'd like to learn more, becoming acquainted with WebTV is easy. This article contains information about:

The WebTV Audience

WebTV subscribers are online more than 40 hours a month, 70% more than the typical personal computer online service subscriber. Most subscribers had little or no Internet experience before they purchased a WebTV-based unit; about 30% have PCs in their home, about half of which are online.

To see whether WebTV users are visiting your site, check your site’s visitor logs for visitors from the domain. Visits by WebTV users may be brief if your site doesn’t work well on the WebTV browser, and return visits are even less likely. As you'll learn from this site, however, even small changes can dramatically improve the usability of your site.


When you say "WebTV", you are actually referring to one of several WebTV-based systems. While these systems are fundamentally similar, there are some subtle differences. Learn more about the different WebTV-based systems by reading about WebTV Networks' Products and Services.

Every type of WebTV-based system, however, displays pages on the same type of monitor - a television screen. Television screens are not as crisp as computer monitors, nor do they display colors the same way. To learn about optimizing for television, read:

The WebTV Browser

Due to the small application size of the WebTV browser and the special requirements for displaying Web sites on television, the WebTV browser does not function identically to Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Most Web sites will display as expected, but Webmasters may want to quickly review the Authoring for WebTV section of this site, which covers topics such as:

The WebTV Viewer, which allows you to emulate a WebTV browser on your PC or Mac, is an excellent resource as well.

Designing for the WebTV Browser

Designing for the WebTV browser isn't just about limitations - WebTV-based systems allow you to do things impossible in other browsers. To learn more about designing specifically for the WebTV browser, visit:

We hope you find the articles on this site useful. Should you have any questions, there are probably other developers with the same concerns. Meet them and discuss these issues in the WebTV Developer Forums.