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At the front line of online

Twenty-five years on the internet and in your hearts

Sambit Bal

In the digital high lane, the passage of time is a dizzy blur. It seems only yesterday that we were busy celebrating ESPNcricinfo's 20th, and here we are now, taking our forever-expanding site into its 25th anniversary year, its spirit of adventure undimmed, its heart beating, as ever, to the cadence of our beloved game, focusing firmly on what lies ahead.

We take our history and legacy seriously. They serve as a badge of responsibility and a reminder that ESPNcricinfo was born to bring the game closer to fans. We are forever cognisant of a game on the move, and more crucially, of contemporary media consumption habits. Through these 25 years, the site has been a robust collaborator in and an instigator of the only constant in our medium: change.

Change has rarely been as profound as in the last couple of years, and it has been driven entirely by how you consume your content. The phrase "the medium is the message" was coined by Marshall McLuhan in the '60s, but never before has the truth of that statement been as acutely manifested as it has now. The ubiquity of the mobile device and accessibility of the internet have created the biggest shift in consumption patterns and behaviour in the history of content. From Test cricket to T20, cricket now straddles a uniquely diverse landscape, with growth driven by the shortest format and a younger emerging audience. And we have adapted both our content strategy and presentation to these changes.

We went through our most decisive mobile-first makeover last year. Our site on mobile devices is now visually rich, scores are faster than ever before - the fastest anywhere, for that matter - stories and videos load in a never-ending stream, and when you load the app, the experience is, if you choose to pick your favourites, intimately personalised. Even as we stay focused on being the game's preeminent publisher globally, the depth of our local content means you are served the matches, scores and stories and videos that matter most to you.

ESPNcricinfo down the years © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Being mobile-first goes way beyond design and technology. It palpably permeates the creation and curation of content. Because mobile devices cut down the barriers of age, inequalities in learning and material wealth, they promote a more egalitarian and broad-based approach to content. And cricket's newest and most vibrant form has added its own dynamics too. Alongside new fans, new heroes and new expectations, T20 has created opportunities for crafting new forms of storytelling. As you will surely have noticed, video is now a more integral part of our bouquet than ever before, and our storytelling is now noticeably more visual, vibrant, accessible and participatory.

But while we actively engage with newer forms, we have not for a moment veered from the path of journalistic integrity and rigour. In a cacophonous world where rumours and half-truths acquire the ring of certainty, we take seriously our obligation to keep you informed, and apart from being cricket's most reliable chronicler, we remain determined to play our part in being the keeper of its conscience - all the while doing so in the formats most convenient for you.

It perhaps bears repeating that ESPNcricinfo is the earliest of digital pioneers, seeding the idea of live-score updates in nerdy chat rooms, then shining the light on live coverage of sport - or for that matter, of anything - online.

But the true measure of a life is not merely in how long it is, but how it has been lived. That ESPNcricinfo was an audacious pioneer; that it existed even before the internet browser; that it invented ball-by-ball coverage of cricket a decade before live-blogging and tweeting came into vogue; that it streamed cricket matches when video on the internet was unheard of; or that its database and Statsguru, its iconic search engine that settles a million watercooler debates and is the lifeline for every cricket writer in the world, were around long before Google became a verb, would still give us terrific bragging rights, but ours isn't a medium for looking back, and the site wouldn't have been what it is had it not continued to press ahead through the entire course of its existence.

There is a lot to look forward to in our 26th year, and none more exciting than the latest iteration of our mobile app, which aims to make your experience even more personalised and the discovery of video content more effortless. Our stats team has been developing a new language for decoding T20, a game of far greater strategy and decision-making than it might have been thought to be at its inception. Alongside plenty more accessible short-form content, we will also be building out a podcast offering. And a number of special features are coming your way over the next few months as part of our anniversary celebration, beginning with a series of video interviews with cricketers who are also turning 25 with us.

If you wish to dip into our past, you will find some delightful stories on the microsite for our 25th, but what gets us out of bed is the thought of what lies ahead. Twenty-five might be an eternity on the internet, but in Test cricket, getting to 25 often means you have come through the initial examination, sized up the pitch and the bowlers, and arrived at the point where it's time to take fresh guard and really make it count. So here's to your company for years to come. Renewal springs in every step of this journey.

Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo @sambitbal