Redundant websites using the gov.uk domain, like the Millennium Bug information page, were still being paid for by the Cabinet Office
The Cabinet Office has completed an audit of its 4,000-odd gov.uk websites, shutting down those from the past that were no longer needed such as bug2000.gov.uk, which provided information on the Millennium Bug more than 16 years ago.
The broken or unused domains were still costing the Cabinet Office annual fees, despite many either having served their purpose many years ago or no longer even existing.
In a GDS (Government Digital Service) blog post, Evans Bissessar described the “long lost gems” he found when carrying out the audit.
“The bug2000.gov.uk website, set up to provide information on dealing with this problem, sat dormant and unnoticed for the past 16 years, with hosting and registration costs continuing to be paid,” he said.
During the audit, Bissessar closed down 947 gov.uk domains, of which 393 belonged to the central government, and 471 belonged to local governments. Almost 200 websites were corrected with updated or relevant information.
All in all, more than 1000 breaches of GDS guidance were found, including inaccessible domains with error pages, pages redirecting to a non-government domain, and domain owners not now eligible to retain a gov.uk domain.
“I found many domains belonging to departments, organisations or campaigns that had long since been closed and forgotten,” said Bissessar.
Some of these included Bug2000, Digital Television, the Consumption of Alcohol Campaign and the Quiet Roads campaign.
“Having done all that, I spread the word through blogs (It’s all about trust – auditing local government domains and Your friendly neighbourhood GOV.UK), got support from colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government and Jisc (who administer gov.uk on behalf of the Cabinet Office) and started by getting domain owners to fix the problems and consider shutting down unused and legacy domains to save on costs,” he said.
The Office of the e-Envoy reserved the use by the public sector for the gov.uk domain around 20 years ago. It was then taken over by the Central Office of Information, and now the Cabinet Office.
Bissessar said that the government receives around 200 new applications made by local authorities for gov.uk domains per year, which have to be approved manually by the Naming and Approvals Committee (NAC).
“However, in all that time, no one’s ever audited this growing list to see if domains are working the way they ought to. This is very important, because a gov.uk URL used in the correct way says to users that it is a trusted and reliable source,” he said.