back to article Axe falls on Directgov as GOV.UK launches

The government's new £4.6m-and-counting public services single domain website GOV.UK officially replaced Directgov this morning. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude confirmed in late 2010 that New Labour's garishly orange-coloured site would be killed off in favour of a new online service that followed Martha Lane Fox's …


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  1. Mike Brown

    Utterly pointless rebranding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      URL needs fixing

      here you go:

  2. Hardcastle the ancient


    We have saved 6 characters in every govt. URL. That's going to save the UK economy, millions of, err, characters.

    Has anyone got a different UK I can go and live in? There seems to be something wrong with this one.

  3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Maude's rhetoric is first class. That's exactly how it should be. But what's the betting the government doesn't follow through? Or that the old ways creep back in, so that the next administration has to "save" us money by starting from scratch again?

    We need an icon for "I'm a cynical bastard."

  4. MartinSullivan and Unchanged

    Happily for us (and the Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror) nothing has changed on two critical web-sites. Both and remain completely the same, without branding or even a link back to this new site.

    The Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror aims to mirror the Jobseekers Direct effort, but be more commodious and open, Its feeds are the basis of a number of third-party efforts. More on

  5. Justin 9

    Not all

    Apply for a tax disk takes you to........

    1. Code Monkey
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not all

      ... for which I'm very grateful. My road tax is due and this was the one service I'd always point to as a govt website that actually worked.

      Let us hope it continues to be not stuffed up for the foreseeable.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not all

      Almost ... the tax disk form that you get in the mail still has a web address printed on it ... if you go to that you get sent to the "things relating to cars and driving licenses" page and it takes another couple of clicks on page till you get to the page you mention where you start the process of paying for a new license on line .... and that is still branded with the orange directgov page style etc.

  6. ukgnome

    My Verdict

    Just to look at basic tax information I counted 7 mouse clicks. This website is the IVR of the web world, and as such can only give it a score of 6/10

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Andy 115

      No, it's not just you...

      ... I was about to post the exact same thing!

  8. Tubs

    How much?

    How can a website cost £70m less than the previous one?

    Are they using 2000 less programmers?

    If that is the case, how much are they spending on the new one?

    1. Dave Pickles

      Re: How much?

      They saved countless millions by not putting full-stops at the end of any sentences

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much?

      It helps if you count all of the costs of the old website, but exclude salaries etc from the cost of the new one

  9. Piers


    There used to be some really good information on the Business Link site.

    Business Link has now been subsumed.

    If I try to use the so-called navigation, I can't see where this information (eg An example of the terms and conditions of your website which covers the content and usage of your website.) has gone.

    If I search for text that was on the page "An example of the terms and conditions of your website which covers the content and usage of your website." I can't find anything remotely related.

    Very disappointing.

    1. Skoorb

      Re: Useless...

      Sorry. You're wrong about what you want. They are right.


      Basically; bog off to a third party website, they only cover 'popular' content in summary form; you are a busy business man rushing about with a Bluetooth headset stuck in your ear and don't have time to read words!

  10. localzuk

    Still there, just not the front page

    Most of the links still send you to subdomains of directgov.

    So, if that's the case, how is it making any savings at all?

  11. Skoorb

    What the hell are they running it on!?

    Oh just look at all the hip web buzzwords of the day products that they are running it on:

    My word.

  12. BigAndos
    Thumb Down

    Nice Design

    The design looks a little "my first website". Oh well, I'm sure they only paid an agency millions of pounds to c ome up with it.

    1. Kay_terra

      Re: Nice Design

      A cursory glimpse at the internets will let you know that the government has actually hired people into the GDS to build and run the service. Tom Loosemore led a lot of the web work and the executive direction came from Mike Bracken ... so yeah, not an agency.

      Cynicism is expected and healthy, but it pays for it to be based in fact rather than lazy speculation.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Congrats GDS

    You've spent ages telling us all how clever you are, and finding new clever ways to redo all the easy bits of DirectGov.

    Today your website launches: real users will tell you what they think of it, and hard questions will be asked about the true costs.

    And you still haven't tackled any of the hard bits that require actual systems integration knowledge, policy knowledge, etc.

    Maybe now you'll shut up and go away until you deliver something real

  14. Da Weezil

    "It has been planned, written, organised and designed around what users need to get done, not around the ways government want them to do it "

    There is stuff I DONT want to do online. so this was/is a waste of money.

    Looks like a second rate phishing site. With such an amateurish layout I don't trust the site to have a professional grade security layer in place.

    Dont want.. wont use.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you know

    you should go easy on them, this is a great start. It does save a lot of money no doubt about that - the old providers of this service were ripping us off royally it would seem. I find it interesting the GDS seems to be headed up by the same people who brought you 'whatdotheyknow' and the other open government sites. Realistically, functionality for everything on day1 is never a goal, im going to sit tight and wait to see what they come up with over the next 12 months before i pass judgement. Our tax burden is millions better off per year - cant argue much with that.

    1. taxman
      Big Brother

      Re: you know

      If this were an Alpha or Beta release I might agree with you. But to still have to rely on links to a site that has been announced as now being closed down - Directgov - then all I can think of is that not much real work has been done on toolset side of the site. Then again, youngsters playing with Macs doing the work.....

      Ok just to redisgn page layout but not much beyond that. At least the Search tool is now in the right place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: you know

        Its still a start and it still saves us a lot of cash. I know this will get better with time. Sure some functionality still sits of subdomains of directgov, but isnt there something like 500 of them? Dont you think the people who original made these systems (and asked us to bend over in the process) would make it as hard as possible to move away from them? Simple rules of being evil in publicly funded IT - to retain the business make it ridiculously difficult to move away and then jack up the price. Taking the first bite out of the migration mountain today was a great first step IMHO and I hope to see a lot more work done on this site over the coming years. ITs a bloody good idea,a dn when you have a lot of the 'mysociety' people running things they tend to be coming from the ange of what we need, not what the government wants us to need.

        Not sure on the kids with Mac comments, from the reasearch I have done about GDS it seems to have hired people who have been doing IT work for 15 to 20 years going by some of the names ive seen flying about.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: you know

          "it still saves us a lot of cash"

          Not proven.

          "people who have been doing IT work for 15 to 20 years"

          Not big IT though

          Ask yourself this. It's a website designed to subsume all other websites. It's built by the Government Digital Service, part of the Cabinet Office. Yet, on launch day, Cabinet Office is still a separate website and the GDS has websites coming out of its ears.

          Why aren't they eating their own dogfood?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: you know

            "I am pretty sure that is not the case, those sites were built by mySociety, whereas has been built by a new in-house team (the house being the cabinent office) ."

            The deputy director is from mysociety, as some of the team.

            "Not proven." - where are you getting your info? Just look at the bills we no longer pay the (several) companies who ran the old site.

            "Not big IT though" - really? Well, lets see - theres BTs old chief web architect there. Theres a director of mysociety there. I could go on, but I think they are 'Big IT' enough for me. Maybe not 'I used to run HP' big. By any chance are you the same 'Fatsbrannigan' that has been all over the comments on GDS and other government websites when ideas to replace the old sites were put forward? You have seemed highly critical since day one, even before a beta was up. I wouldnt be surprised if you work for the people that used to run the sites, hence the expected negative comments.

            Im not looking at this team as some new government quango-quasi-thing - realistically they are true IT guys who want to provide people with open government - and they have been given carte blanche.. FFS give them a chance, if this fails, what are we left with? The old way where the few big companies selected to 'outsource' the sites to make them crap and millions over budget. FatsBranningan would be back in a job then ;)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: you know

              Am I Fats Brannigan, would-be-scourge of GDS? You betcha

              Do I work with/for DirectGov or interested parties? No

              Are you a GDS shill? Who knows

              This side of the rainbow, we're still waiting for proof of those savings, and the presence of one mid-league and one minor web player ain't gonna help bolt onto that big old government tin

              Let's wait and see what happens with Digital I'd and Universal Credits - fun!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: you know

          Aren't most of the people at GDS the people who worked at DirectGov anyway? Same civil servants in fact.

          Anon for obvious.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: you know

      "It does save a lot of money no doubt about that ... Our tax burden is millions better off per year"

      Touching faith. The true costs of the new site, and any real savings, have not been published or audited. GDS are just quoting their business case at this point.

      They have needlessly overspent by adopting a not-invented-here mindset but have still only tackled the low hanging fruit. Costs will climb steeply when they get to the hard bits (transactions) as few of the team have any record of delivery for complex integrations with legacy systems. Sadly their arrogance has alienated the people charged with running those legacy systems

      Hold your enthusiasm for a while - they're going to need all the supporters they can get.

    3. SB

      Re: you know

      "be headed up by the same people who brought you 'whatdotheyknow' and the other open government sites"

      I am pretty sure that is not the case, those sites were built by mySociety, whereas has been built by a new in-house team (the house being the cabinent office) .

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So far...

    ... at least half the editors I have on our LA site (we have about 250) haven't said a nice word about it when I informed them this morning of the (sort of) official demise of DirectGov. The old DirectGov services database seems to have stopped reporting broken links for me as well, so I need to check the entries manually. So far looks to have been implemented by a monkey as clearly the organ grinders are too busy playing angry birds on their iPhones paid for by our tax money.

  17. D Moss Esq

    The savings are for me, the costs are for you

    "A taxpayer service that saves taxpayer money... Hmm".

    There may be savings. We may find out when we see the audited accounts. But wherefrom comes the touching belief that these savings will be enjoyed by taxpayers?

    Go back to the Bible, Martha Lane Fox's 10-page letter to Francis Maude, and you will read:

    "I recommend that any savings from the reduction in duplication should remain in departments, once transition costs and ongoing funding for the new central team have been taken into account".'s%20letter%20to%20Francis%20Maude%2014th%20Oct%202010.pdf

  18. D Moss Esq

    GOV.UK + IdA + G-Cloud + midata + ... + NSTIC - Government Gateway

    Savings? Improving the user experience? Those are the issues Messrs Bracken and Maude might like to restrict us to in our discussion. But there are a few more:-

    1. You can't deliver public services on-line if you can't identity the users. GOV.UK needs IdA, identity assurance, major announcement due next Monday, or read leaks to the Independent,

    2.1 GOV.UK is being hosted in the cloud by a one-man company, Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd. Bit small?

    2.2 GOV.UK is being hosted in the cloud. Loss of control over data, staff, costs ...

    3. Identity assurance relying on Facebook, Google, Twitter accounts may not be quite as reliable as the identity assurance offered by the Government Gateway but the Gateway's going anyway and soon Facebook and the others will have become part of the British Constitution. Not mentioned in Francis Maude's blog post but nevertheless the case.

    4. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill continues to meander through Parliament and, if it gets through, we will all have PDSs (personal data stores). PDSs are the foundation on which midata is built but, again, mysteriously, they make no appearance in Mr Maude's missive.

    5. It is tempting to say that ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken is over-fond of Google and will do anything to further its interests including giving it the UK to play with, a power apparently in his remit. Tempting, but wrong, because what he really loves is Estonia. GOV.UK is his way of making the UK just a little bit more Estonian,

    6. ...

    They go up to 17,

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. D Moss Esq

        Re: GOV.UK + IdA + G-Cloud + midata + ... + NSTIC - Government Gateway

        Akamai? Maybe they've disintegrated?

        Mr Newton, I am as mystifyied as you, please explain the following:


        Government Digital Service

        Introducing a new supplier (Skyscape)

        by Mark O'Neill on 18/09/2012

        ... To meet the needs of GOV.UK, we are planning to work with a number of different Infrastructure as a Service providers. We are happy to announce that the first cloud hosting provider we are working with is Skyscape.




        HM Government | G-Cloud hosting bought through G-Cloud

        Posted on September 18, 2012 by Eleanor Stewart

        We’re really pleased to be able to announce the first major sale of Infrastructure As A Service. Government Digital Service have signed a contract with Skyscape for:

        1) Compute as a service

        2) Compute as a service (test & development)

        3) Storage as a service

        This is all intended to support the exciting work they’re doing on to revolutionise the way citizens access information and services online.


        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. D Moss Esq

            Re: GOV.UK + IdA + G-Cloud + midata + ... + NSTIC - Government Gateway

            I dug on and got a poor user experience:


            What are you looking for?

            Sorry, but there are no results for 'akamai'

            Please try

            Searching again using different words

            Browsing from the GOV.UK home page

            Visiting the support pages if you need more assistance


            Using Google found a few thousand references to Skyscape and GOV.UK including this one



            Hosting GOV.UK in the cloud to cost GDS record-breaking £600,000

            Government Digital Service signed a deal with Skyscape last month

            By Derek du Preez | Computerworld UK | Published 10:29, 10 October 12

            The Government Digital Service’s (GDS) infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) deal with Skyscape to host single domain website GOV.UK, which was procured through the G-Cloud, is worth an estimated £600,000.

            Denise McDonagh, G-Cloud programme director, revealed the figure in an article for the Financial Times, where she said that the deal is the biggest sale to date from CloudStore and is “an important milestone for G-Cloud, showing that the public sector is ready to embrace low-cost utility cloud services”.


            The meaning seems pretty clear. From what you say, Mr Newton, these claims are simply false and GOV.UK is after all not being hosted on Skyscape.

            Is this possible?

          2. D Moss Esq

            Akamai 1 - 0 Skyscape

            Enter nslookup and back comes the answer:

            Non-authoritative answer:





            Check up with RIPE on that address and you get:

            inetnum: -

            netname: AKAMAI-PA

            descr: Akamai Technologies

            country: EU

            admin-c: NARA1-RIPE

            tech-c: NARA1-RIPE

            status: ASSIGNED PA

            mnt-by: AKAM1-RIPE-MNT

            mnt-routes: AKAM1-RIPE-MNT

            mnt-routes: CW-EUROPE-GSOC

            source: RIPE #Filtered

            Things are looking good for the Akamai theory and not so good for Skyscape.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Akamai 1 - 0 Skyscape

              From your last few comments, I take it that this is the first time you've been on the Internet by yourself.

              I believe, but don't actually care, that Skyscape is using a CDN (perhaps Akamai) to prevent their having had to buy hardware, pay for software, pay for data center space, etc, etc, etc.

              Whether that is what was intended when Skyscape's bit was accepted, I don't know, but I'm sure that Akamai are happy with the situation.

  19. ScepticTank

    Early days

    As one of those embittered old lags who ran one of the old sites seeking to simplify everything in one place I say ....congratulations! has continuously improved since the days of the Beta, and I'm sure there's much more to come.

    It does rankle that GDS can't acknowledge the people behind the old sites and say thanks for your contribution. Yes the old way was expensive, but don't believe that any of that cash trickled its way down the chain to the grunts who did the editing and coding. Much of it went on military-grade security for servers that only published public domain content, and equal amounts on servicing the bureaucracy that scrutinises the work of an outsourced contract. But we did include our overheads in the published figures. Are GDS?

    Both DG and BL had many staff that were above all passionate about doing the best thing for the user. is delivering what many of us saw was needed years ago, and benefits from a culture that allows things to happen quickly. We look on with admiration and a pang of jealousy perhaps.

  20. taxman
    Big Brother

    Oh suits you!

    Well, I think we can all agree that at least someone from GDS has been monitoring the t'interweb for comments on the Neu Service. Nice job if you can get it.

    Still crap how it links to Directgov though particularly when ALL the comms coming from the CO say Directgov is closed. Why not bring it all in and go live when it's complete....or is that now entering a political sphere of when the LID had to be achieved matter how crap it is?

    Oh and using Akamai.... makes a change from Prolexia, but could still be expensive in the long run when the kiddies start playing about again.

  21. PeterM42

    How will they save money........?

    .......By bringing it in-house, so avoiding paying the outsource company's profit margin upfront.

    The REAL cost will come later when all these new civil servants come to collect their protected, inflated pensions.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One piece of goods news is ...

    .. we now know we can officially include Google Analytics on our websites without having to ask people to explicitly opt-in.

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