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A “Change” in web design – the new White House website

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Barack "Change" ObamaYesterday marked the inauguration of Barack “Change” Obama as the 44th president of the United States. If you were wondering whether he’d live up to his tagline, then you need look no further than his the new web design of whitehouse.gov.

In keeping with his commitment to transparent administration there have been some changes in his robots.txt file1. Thanks to Jason Kottke for spotting this.

Robots in the White House

The Bush administration robots.txt file looked like:

User-agent: *2
Disallow: /cgi-bin
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /query.html
Disallow: /omb/search
Disallow: /omb/query.html
Disallow: /expectmore/search
Disallow: /expectmore/query.html
Disallow: /results/search
Disallow: /results/query.html
Disallow: /earmarks/search
Disallow: /earmarks/query.html
Disallow: /help
Disallow: /360pics/text
Disallow: /911/911day/text
Disallow: /911/heroes/text

Looking at the new administration, we can see that gone are all the ‘hidden’ folders, gone is the secrecy, yea we can report that the new “Change” robots.txt file looks like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /includes/

Whilst this might be a slightly fatuous and slightly irrelevant look at the new administration’s take on web design, it caused me some amusement.

It did occur to me though that the mere act of writing this post is a mark of how long the Bush administration has been in power. When Bush took over from Clinton all those years ago the internet was not nearly as pervasive as it is today and the robots.txt file of whitehouse.gov would have been of little interest to most people3.

In the eight years since Bush took the helm at the White House, quite a lot has happened on the internet, so for the sake of a quick retrospective here follows:

The Internet Changes During the Bush Administration


  • Napster taken offline by court ruling.
  • Wikipedia Created.
  • Apple launches the iPod.


  • 58.5% of the U.S. population (164.14 million people) uses the Internet. Worldwide there are 544.2 million users.
  • Internet Explorer’s share of the browser market reaches 96 per cent.
  • EBay purchases PayPal for $1.5 billion.


  • Apple introduces iTunes online music store
  • It’s estimated that Internet users illegally download about 2.6 billion music files each month.
  • Skype Launches.
  • Spam accounts for half of all email.
  • WordPress blogging platform launched.
  • MySpace Launched.


  • Internet Worm spreads through Internet servers. About 1 in 12 email messages are infected.
  • Facebook Founded.
  • Firefox released version 1.0.
  • Amazon makes first ever full year profit since it’s launch.
  • Google goes public for $1.7bn.
  • Ubuntu launches.


  • YouTube Launches.
  • 87 per cent of the world’s e-mail is spam.
  • EBay buy Skype for $2.6 billion.


  • There are 92615362 websites online.
  • Microsoft launch Internet Explorer 7 – first major update to their browser in over 5 years.
  • Bill Gates announces that over the next 2 years he will transition himself out of his daily role at Microsoft.
  • Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion.
  • Twitter founded.


  • Legal online music downloads triple to 6.7 million downloads per week.
  • CNN and YouTube host their first presidential candidates debate together.
  • Apple Launch the iPhone.
  • Google purchases DoubleClickfor $3.1 billion.


  • Microsoft Offers to Buy Yahoo for $44.6 Billion.
  • The White House begins its first blog.
  • Firefox browser share reaches over 20% of the market.

Please note that the above list is probably not in perfect chronological order, although the years are all correct.

  1. A robots.txt file on any web site tells search engines what they are allowed to include in search results, and those items that they must not include.
  2. This indicates that the following lines are to be obeyed by all search engines.
  3. Some of course could argue that it still is of little interest.


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