Ontario Government Domain Survey



June 11, 2012

Following our work on analyzing federal sites with Ben Balter's Site Investor script, we surveyed over 111 Ontario Government domains using this tool and found some more interesting findings. The Government of Ontario isn't as large as the Federal government, but it is the most comparable level of government in Canada and also is the province where OpenConcept is based. Our collective tax dollars have paid for these sites and I believe that they need to be built to be accessible to its citizens. Because Ontario doesn't yet have an Open Data portal, where I could simply download a list of domains registered by departments of the Government of Ontario, I had to build a list. It is very likely that there are errors which would affect the score, but not the general trends.

Summary of Ontario Government sites:

  • 36 still had no non-www support, that's a lower level of support than both the American & GoC domains surveyed.
  • There was no support for next generation IPv6, despite government agencies around the world taking action.
  • 47 (42%) supported HTTPS for encrypted transactions, which higher than the Government of Canada.
  • There is no use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or USA based cloud servers.
  • Google Analytics is used by only 4 sites.
  • 84% are not using a recognized Javascript library. jQuery (18), Dojo (3) & Mootools (4) these libraries are all used significantly less by the province.
  • 90% of sites do not report using a Content Management System (CMS). Of those that do, Drupal (9) is by far the most popular CMS, followed by WordPress (2) and Sharepoint (2) and finally Joomla (1).
  • Microsoft-IIS 5.0 to 7.5 (52), Apache 2.0.59 to 2.2.3 (33), Zeus 4.3 (2), Lotus-Domino (1), IBM_HTTP_Server (3), WebSphere Application Server (1), MIRS-server (1), IBM-PROXY-WTE (1).

There were only 6 domains that were using Google Analytics (omdc.on.ca, ontarioplace.com, powerauthority.on.ca, premier.gov.on.ca, ago.net & agricorp.com). Since only 10% is using Google Analytics, I expect that there isn't yet a culture that is investing in analytics within the provincial government.  Without watching usage patterns how can any communicator know that their content is useful?

I know that in talking to people in the Ontario Government that open source software is still subject to FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) despite the fact that almost 1/3 of the servers running government sites use Apache. This is uncharacteristically low for the Internet, where Apache has been the clear leader since 1996. Of all of the sites managed by this survey tool, Drupal is the clear leader.  This doesn't mean though that there are other CMS's that the script just doesn't do a good job of sniffing out.

CMS Stats

The CMS systems we could identify included WordPress (ago.net, artmatters.ca), Sharepoint (hydroone.com, agricorp.com), IronPoint (omdc.on.ca), Joomla (ontario25.ca). The vast majority of identified sites however were being delivered with Drupal:

It is our belief that the vast majority of government sites are built with either a custom built scripts or static HTML using something like FrontPage or Dreamweaver. We were able to confirm a number of FrontPage generated websites by looking at the generator Metatags. We also were able to sniff out reports of Mura CMS and Mindoka CMS. We hadn't heard of this software before, nor does it seem to have any critical mass on the Internet.

I've done more in-depth analysis of federal sites, of which the vast majority has use the gc.ca domain.  Unfortunately, the Government of Ontario doesn't use a domain name convention as consistently, so we can't use the same approach to analyzing pages.  Using some popular government domains you can see how many thousands of pages are available under a particular domain name or group of domains:

  • gov.on.ca domain & sub-domains - 1,380k
  • Drupal sites - 115k
  • ontario.ca domain & sub-domains - 45k
  • WordPress sites - 5k
  • Sharepoint sites - 7k

This does give us only a sense of usage within the government, but clearly Drupal is delivering more than the other identified CMS tools. There are 46 million gc.ca web pages that Google knows about, I can't give you a figure of the number of pages that the province is responsible for, but it is certainly millions if the number is relative to the budgets & domains I've found. A growing list of government Drupal sites can be found on this Drupal Groups Wiki.

Most of these were written in either Dreamweaver, Frontpage or hand written HTML, and still need to be maintained using these old-school approaches. Back in 2007 we blogged about a comparison between Drupal and Dreamweaver, jumping to a CMS like Drupal has just so many advantages for government departments.


Many government departments will have chosen at this point to build custom build code to help automate and enhance the process of delivering web pages. We haven't done a security review on any Ontario Government sites, but I am certain that they have very similar to concerns we raised about federal government security. Maintaining software properly is expensive and most departments simply don't make it a priority. Any code needs to be reviewed regularly by security professionals to see that it meets the current best practices.  The Internet is a rapidly changing environment, and what was considered secure 3-4 years ago just simply cannot be considered secure today.  Security by obscurity just isn't an option on the Internet.  We know that federal government agencies have been compromised and there is good reason to believe that there will be more attacks in the future.


The Government of Ontario is going to need to implement the AODA before everyone else.  Reaching WCAG 2.0 AA is a huge challenge for any institution to undertake as it usually means rethinking quite a lot of content and presentation. As of January 1st of this year, my understanding of section 14.(5) of the AODA is that all new web content needs to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. It is unclear how this can be achieved without a strategic approach similar to what was implemented by the Federal Government.  It make so much sense for any large institution looking at accessibility to invest in fixing problems rather than build temporary workarounds. In trying to meet accessibility guidelines, departments need to be tactical about how they will meet these guidelines.  I did a quick review of Government of Ontario sites, much like I did last year's review the GoC. The vast majority of home pages that I looked at with the WAVE Toolbar had accessibility challenges which would make it not WCAG 2.0 AA.


We're at a point now where there is simply overwhelming need to start doing things differently within government IT. Budgets are simply tighter than ever, yet this technology is more vital than it has ever been to all Ontario Citizens. Communications and IT teams need to work together and find ways to collaborate outside of their silo.  From my quick analysis, it seems that the federal government is at least 2-3 years ahead of the provincial government. I know that there is innovative work going on with accessibility (particularly in Drupal) in universities across the province. The Drupal Community is also actively collaborating, like in next week's Accessibility Sprint, and there is a lot that could be learned by participating.

As noted in Ben Balter's original post:

Please note: This data is to be treated as preliminary and is provided “as is” with no guarantee as to its validity. The source code for all tools used, including the resulting data, is available in GitHub. If you find a systemic error, I encourage you to fork the code and I will try my best to recrawl the list to improve the data’s accuracy.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.